Over the weekend the Independent Commission outlined a report to phase out Rikers Island and open several smaller jails across New York City’s five boroughs. Mayor de Blasio has agreed with the proposed notion and has vowed to have Rikers shut down completely in the next 10 years.
“It is now the policy of the city to close Rikers down formally. Finally,” said Judge Johnathan Lippman, Commission Chair. “Our present system creates hardened criminals and undermines the health of our families and our communities,” said Lippman.
Currently, Rikers holds about 10,000 inmates, and in order to make the new plan work, that number would have to decrease by 50%. Which means speedier trials, and bail being reduced for offenders.
Rikers has been the subject of scrutiny due to claims of violence and corruption. Recently Jay Z along with The Weinstein Company produced a 6-part docuseries about the death of Kalief Browder who was wrongly arrested for suspicion of stealing a book bag. After spending three years under the deplorable conditions at Rikers, he was released, but then committed suicide a short time later.
There are several steps that must happen before this shut down actual happens, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.