- Thomson Reuters
- The first of nine jails on New York City’s Rikers Island will close this summer, officials said Tuesday.
- Mayor Bill de Blasio promised in March to begin closing the entire jail complex over roughly a decade.
- Rikers Island jails have been beset for years with complaints of systemic violence and corruption.
New York City will close the first of nine facilities on Rikers Island as part of its goal to shut down the notoriously troubled jail complex over 10 years, city officials announced Tuesday.
The George Motchan Detention Center, which houses roughly 600 men, is set to close this summer.
“Every day we are making New York City’s jail system smaller, safer, and fairer,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Tuesday. “This announcement is an important step in our plan to close Rikers Island and create more community-based facilities to better serve people in custody and our hard-working correctional staff.”
De Blasio announced last March that he intended to permanently shut down the jail, which has been plagued for years by complaints of systemic civil-rights violations, corruption, violence, and use of excessive force from guards.
De Blasio, who was inaugurated for his second term as mayor on Monday, said last March that the city was holding roughly 9,500 in custody and would need to bring that number down to 5,000 before the entire jail complex could close.
As of January 1, the jail’s population had dropped to 8,705, and the previous month was the first time the population had dropped below 9,000 since 1982. The reduced jail population comes amid plunging crime rates in New York City, which have dropped across each major category of felonies to rates not seen since the 1950s.
In place of Rikers, the city intends to build new, smaller jails in most other boroughs – part of an effort to house inmates in their own communities, where they’ll have better access to programs and their families.
Officials said Tuesday that the George Motchan Detention Center’s closure will not result in layoffs for jail staff, but the city’s corrections department will reduce its overtime costs, The New York Daily News reported.