New York City Officials Reach Deal On Shuttering Rikers Island

New York City Officials Reach Deal On Shuttering Rikers Island

The report was delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislator on Wednesday.

If you've ever watched a TV crime drama set in New York City, you likely have a passing knowledge of the 10-complex jail facility on the 400-acre island in the East River. The commission, which has delivered its findings to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature, has labeled Rikers as one of five "worst offenders" in the state, and details inmate deaths, escape attempts, fires, and conditions that are "unsecure, unsanitary and unsafe, for staff and inmates alike".

Cuomo's chief counsel, Alphonso David, called the agreement the "first positive step" for shuttering Rikers, where he said conditions were intolerable, and chided city officials for agreeing to a 10-year closing plan. The sprawling complex continues to be plagued by failures in management and regulatory compliance, the commission's report said. A string of brutality cases prompted calls for its closure. De Blasio says such a plan will create a "safer and fairer" borough-based jail system.

"Given the City's inaction and protracted 10-year proposal", the report continued, "it is now time for the Commission to examine steps to expeditiously close Rikers and to ensure that the constitutional rights of inmates and staff are protected".

De Blasio said believed the city could move even quicker to close Rikers Island if Albany committed to a number of prison reform efforts including voting for bail reform, for speedier trials, to allow inmates on good behavior to get out of the prison system earlier, and to take parolees out of Rikers and put them into the state's own system.

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Only two weeks after New York City announced that Perkins Eastman would be studying potential locations and designs for the borough-based jails that will eventually replace Rikers Island, the Mayor's office has released a list of the chosen, community-based sites.

"If the governor and the Legislature want to help us close Rikers more quickly, they have the power to do so", he said Wednesday.

Officials agreed to a single public review process for four proposed sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens - the sites providing off-Island space for about 5,000 detainees.

The problems the commission found at the four upstate jails include inmate escapes, obsolete facilities, guard posts left unstaffed and overcrowding.

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