- Title: New York city council votes to close infamous Rikers Island jails
- Date: 17th October 2019
- Summary: NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (FILE - MAY 17, 2011) (REUTERS) DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS BUS LEAVING THE RIKERS ISLAND ENTRANCE BUSES ARRIVING AT RIKERS ISLAND WIDE OF RIKERS ISLAND DETAIL OF MAIN BUILDING ON RIKERS ISLAND SIGN AT ENTRANCE OF TO RIKERS ISLAND DETAIL OF BUILDING ON RIKERS ISLAND WIDE OF RIKERS ISLAND SIGN AT ENTRANCE OF RIKERS ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS VEHICLE DRIVING PAST RIKERS ISLAND SIGN AT ENTRANCE NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (FILE - MARCH 12, 2015) (REUTERS) INSIDE SECTION OF RIKERS HALLWAY LEADING TO SHOWER AREA VARIOUS OF JAIL CELL HALLWAY WITH CELL DOORS INSIDE RIKERS JAIL
- Embargoed: 31st October 2019 22:06
- Keywords: Rikers Island New York City jail prisoners prison Rikers Island closing
- Location: NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- City: NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA002B1HK3LZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The New York City Council on Thursday (October 17) voted to close its infamous Rikers Island jail complex by 2026, seeking to end chronic violence and degrading conditions as part of a nationwide rethinking of mass incarceration.
The council approved an $8.7 billion legislative package to close Rikers and three other jails, create four more humane facilities throughout the city, and eventually turn Rikers Island itself into a public space.
"Conditions matter. These jails are disgusting. These jails should have been closed years ago. We are doing it today," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told colleagues before the vote.
The 400-acre (160-hectare) island in the East River, connected by bridge to the borough of Queens, is home to nine jails that hold about 7,000 inmates today, most of them awaiting trial or serving sentences of less than one year, versus more than 20,000 two decades ago during at time of peak crime rates.
In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed closing Rikers within 10 years, and in 2018 the city stopped holding inmates between the ages of 16 and 18.
A U.S. Justice Department investigation in 2014 found their constitutional rights were routinely violated though inmate-on-inmate violence, virtual solitary confinement, and excessive force by guards.
"Indeed, we find that a deep-seated culture of violence is pervasive throughout the adolescent facilities at Rikers,"United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said.
A New York state Commission of Correction report in 2018 called for expediting the closure, citing a "spiraling year to year increase of violent incidents and degrading conditions facing both inmates and staff."
Members of the mostly liberal city council said the city was trying to end mass incarceration and what critics call the "prison-industrial complex," saying drug addicts and the mentally ill were too often wrongly punished by being sent to jail and that ethnic minorities were disproportionately locked up.
Besides Rikers, the city will also close jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx where inmates sometimes lacked heating in the winter or air conditioning in the summer.
(Production: Roselle Chen, Soren Larson)
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