"New York City will close the Rikers Island Jail facility," Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday during a press conference.
The mayor did not detail his proposal, but the announcement comes before the release of an independent review of the notorious prison facility seen by The New York Times. The review, led by Judge Jonathan Lippman, states: "[T]he use of Rikers Island must be phased out over the next 10 years and its facilities demolished.”
The proposal will be released on April 2, according to the Times. It also recommends holding fewer prisoners on bail, expanded diversion programs for drug offenders, and changing state law to treat certain offenses as civil infractions rather than criminal, such as fare-beating, marijuana possession, and prostitution.
The report recommends moving inmates to "a system of smaller, borough-based jails" at the cost of around $10.6 billion, a total of 5,500 beds spread across facilities in New York's five boroughs as needed. Prison reform activists believe that closing Rikers and a move to localized prisons will reduce travel time to court appearances for inmates and allow families to visit more easily. Closing what has become one of the most infamous symbols of incarceration in America would be a significant symbolic victory as well.
Calls to shutdown Rikers have grown in recent years. The facility was condemned globally after the 2015 suicide of Kalief Browder, 22-year old Bronx man and former inmate of who was held at Rikers for three years awaiting trial for the theft of a backpack.