A new bill in Congress aims to ensure that those incarcerated do not suffer similar mental health challenges as Bronx teenager Kalief Browder, who was never convicted of a crime and ultimately killed himself after his release from three years at Rikers Island.
The 146-page report, issued Friday by an independent commission convened by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and tasked with studying the issue, calls for the closure of the Rikers over the next 10 years through a mixture of alternative sentencing, bail reform, and the building of five smaller jails, one in each of the five boroughs. The mass incarceration crisis did not being in New York City, but it will end here. "I emphasize, this will not happen overnight", he said at a press conference March 31 with Ms. Mark-Viverito and Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte.
The city must first reduce the overall jail population to roughly 5,000 inmates, from some 9,300 housed now by the Department of Correction.
Last week Mayor de Blasio estimated a 10 year timeline before Rikers could be completely shut down.
"A year ago, people were laughing at me", he said.
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The island, the report said, should be used to expand nearby LaGuardia Airport and to house waste-treatment and other unpopular facilities that are now housed primarily in poor neighborhoods.
Elected officials have also come out against the early reports of plans to open mini-jails around the city, including State Sen.
On Monday, when asked about the commission's report, de Blasio said he had not read it, adding that he hoped to start discussions with City Council leaders in the "coming weeks" about developing a plan to move the closure proposal forward. "We now have a real plan", he said in another statement reported by the New York Times. Jails not on Rikers Island hold a total of 2,400 inmates. While de Blasio said the city has not identified any possible locations, he did say there is one he is ruling out.
The March presentation also included a plot of city land adjacent to the NYPD's police academy in College Point Queens and waterfront property in Hunts Point The Bronx that is next to where the city's 800-bed jail barge is now moored.
"I saw fights people get stabbed, it really is survival of the fittest when you're in there", said Stanley Richards, a member of the commission who was locked up when he was a teen for robbery.