The controversial and infamous Rikers Island jail will probably close in the coming years. The New York City Council voted on Thursday to replace it with four separate jails that will be in four of New York City’s five boroughs.
Rikers Island is the second-largest jail complex in the entire country and has faced multiple allegations and reports of abuse, violence and mismanagement, according to the Post. The city council approved an $8 billion plan to spread the inmates out over the city instead of keeping them at Rikers. One of the goals of closing Rikers is to have inmates closer to courthouses, family members and social services for things like mental health assistance and job training.
“This is about valuing our people, no longer condemning people and sending them on a pathway that only made their lives worse and worse,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference after the vote. “Today we made history: The era of mass incarceration is over.”
But it might not be over. The plan does not have the full green light yet, because the plan is not to close Rikers until 2026, and future New York City councils will have to continue to approve the measure. The jails would be located in Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
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Rikers Island first opened in 1935. It originally was touted as something necessary and helpful for the city. When it opened, The New York Times described it as “ample in size to serve for many years to come and which in all its plans and parts should be the most perfect prison in the world.”
Instead, the jail has been plagued with infestations of rats, fires and a stench that can’t be removed. It is a massive complex, including 10 jails, a solitary-confinement complex, a power plant and more than a dozen beds next to the women’s dorm for babies born there, according to the Marshall Project.
There is a push-and-pull from both sides of the debate. Residents already are decrying the expansion or building of a jail in their neighborhood, according to the Post. But the four lawmakers who would have those jails in their boroughs are in favor of the current plan.