NYC poised to close notorious Rikers jail complex by 2026

NEW YORK (AP) – New York City lawmakers are moving a step closer to closing Rikers Island, a massive jail complex notorious for violence and dysfunction that is increasingly seen as a relic.

The City Council voted yesterday on a plan to replace the complex with four smaller jails located closer to the city’s main courthouses in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

Rikers would shutter by 2026, ending a decades-long run as one of the world’s largest jails.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other Democrats support the plan, which would cost more than USD8 billion, in part because of a belief that in an age of falling crime rates, huge jails are part of the public safety problem rather than part of the solution.

“Mass incarceration did not begin in New York City, but it will end here,” de Blasio said this week.

“We are proving you don’t need to arrest your way to safety.”

City officials said a steep drop in the jail population has made it feasible to close Rikers, a complex of 10 jails on an island between Queens and the Bronx that mainly houses inmates awaiting trial.

With falling crime rates, the number of people incarcerated in New York City on a daily basis has declined from a high of nearly 22,000 in 1991 to about 7,000 today.

New York City officials announced this week that they believe they can shrink the jail population even further by 2026, to just 3,300 prisoners.

File photo shows the Rikers Island jail complex in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background. PHOTO: AP