New York City Council Votes To Shut Down Problematic Rikers Island, Open 4 Smaller Detention Centers In Its Place

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The New York City Council voted today to close the massive Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with four smaller jails across four of the city’s boroughs.This $8.7 billion plan, which has been backed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, will close one of the country’s largest jails by 2026, according to CBS News.“Rikers Island is a symbol of brutality and inhumanity and it is time for us to once and for all close Rikers Island,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “As a city we must do everything we can to move away from the failed policies of mass incarceration.”The 400-acre complex has 10,000 beds and sits on an island in the middle of the East River between Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. The City Council voted 36-13 to replace the complex with four smaller ones. They’ll be connected to the city’s main courthouses in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx and QueensThe jail housed some inmates with short sentences, but it mainly served as a holding center for thousands of inmates awaiting trial.There have been complaints about Rikers for years as the jail complex has become known for its lack of oversight, excessive force and neglect. In 2016, Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that a two-year investigation had found “an alarming number of cases there was no discipline with respect to officers at all.”Rikers also made national headlines after the death of Kalief Browder — who was detained for three years — which included abuse by guards and the times he was held in solitary confinement, starting in 2010 when he was 16 on charges of stealing a backpack. The charges against him were eventually dropped, but Browder later killed himself at the age of 22. While many activists are in favor of Rikers closing down, opponents have worried about housing inmates in residential neighborhoods.The new jails would only contain a total of 3,300 beds — compared to a current population of roughly 7,200 inmates, according to CBS New York. The city says the inmate population has gone down from 11,000 since 2014, and it’s projected to be only 3,300 when the borough-based system begins.

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