An Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration reform consisting of consequential members of New York City’s political elite such as former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Herbert Sturz, chairman of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, will look to close the historic Rikers Island jail complex, replacing it with five new jails spread across the five boroughs.
The plan will be accomplished by what some would argue are dangerous means. A portion of Rikers current inmate population will be released under supervision according to the New York Post. Others argue that the current system is not equitable enough for those currently housed in New York’s prison complex. Sturz told the Post that “Some of the people there will be on supervised release…we want to make the bail system fair.”
At present, Rikers currently houses 10,000 inmates, 80 percent of which are awaiting trial. Lippman has reportedly already met with NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to finalize the plan.
This is not the first time that policymakers have convened or spoken on the possible shutting down of Rikers, Governor Andrew Cuomo has supported the measure in the past.
De Blasio originally rejected the idea of closing the complex, stating that although it was a noble concept, the actual execution of the measure would be an impractical step, as it would cost the city “billions and billions of dollars” and arguably make it less safe to inhabit, after all, a former prisoner on the loose is still a loose prisoner, irrespective of whether or not they are under state-mandated “supervised control.”
The recently convened commission hired two teams of consultants in order to formulate a blueprint to revamp the Island. The team of consultants from HR&A Advisors has proposed that the city the jail complex be replaced with a third runway for LaGuardia airport and an adjacent sewage treatment plant and a garbage transfer station.
The secondary group of consultants is searching for places throughout the five boroughs that could serve as prime locations for the new jails that will receive the transferred prisoners according to the New York Post.
De Blasio said the initiative to close Rikers would aid the end of the era of “mass incarceration” in the New York City. The Mayor announced on Friday that the cost of closing the jail will run to $10.6 billion. The new plan will seek to reduce the number of those incarcerated to $5,000 according to the Times.
“This is a very serious, sober, forever decision…once you’re off, you’re off.” During the Mayor’s speech in City Hall, Melissa Mark Viverito added: “After decades of having a system that what it wants to do is strip away the dignity of individuals….we’re trying to put some humanity back.”
By: Kristina Stukalenko