Mayor Pushes Plan To Replace Rikers Island Prison

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Mayor Bill de Blasio will discuss replacing Rikers Island with borough-based jails on Tuesday.

A 10-year plan to close the Rikers complex was announced last summer.

New, smaller jails are proposed in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan. A design was released of a jail site on Centre Street in lower Manhattan – including ground-floor shopping and community space, but that plan was scrapped last month.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials said they envision more humane settings that would feature community space, ground-floor retail outlets and offices for inmate support services. A proposal for a Bronx facility even calls for rezoning a portion of the site to allow for development of affordable housing.

The announcement comes six months after officials decided to shut down Rikers by 2027 after years of complaints about violence by guards and gang members, mistreatment of the mentally ill and juveniles and unjustly long detention for minor offenders. Advocates for the closure also have argued that the island facility near La Guardia Airport — accessible only by a narrow bridge — is too isolated, cutting off inmates from the outside world in a way that hinders oversight and rehabilitation.

Daily populations at Rikers have fallen to about 8,200 a day and could reach as low as 5,000 thanks to reduced sentences for low-level offenders and other criminal justice reforms, officials said. They said the lower inmate populations have made dismantling the complex and replacing it with the smaller facilities, each with 1,500 beds, more viable.