By Jon Cronin, Editor
Following last week’s announcement that the city’s jail population has fallen below 9,000, Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed on Tuesday that the city will close its first jail at Rikers Island this summer.
The city’s Department of Corrections is planning to close the George Motchan Detention Center, which houses approximately 600 men. The mayor’s office reported that the closure would bring the jail facilities down to eight at Rikers, and not result in the layoff of any DOC uniformed staff. The DOC will release additional information in the coming months as to how the closure will reduce overtime and enable the agency to provide training to existing staff members.
“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 said.
Cynthia Brann, the DOC’s commissioner, noted that the city’s jail population has decreased by 21 percent during the four years in which the mayor has been in office. The current jail population is 8,705, which is the lowest since 1982, according to the mayor’s office.
“We will continue building on our progress in reducing our jail population through programs that provide life and work skills that help individuals in custody re-enter our community,” Brann said.
The mayor initially revealed his plan to close Rikers Island’s jail facilities in March with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan). A real-time schedule for the plan can be viewed at www.nyc.gov/CloseRikers. Request-for-proposals to identify sites for jails in the five boroughs have already been launched.
“The closure of the George Motchan Detention Center on Rikers Island is evidence of this administration’s commitment to criminal justice reform,” said Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), who is the assembly’s correction committee chairman. “By offering low level offenders alternatives to incarceration, enacting supervised release for low risk defendants and supporting other paths to stability, this city is proving that it’s possible to lower crime while ending the cycle of incarceration that too many find themselves caught in. I am proud to stand with Mayor Bill De Blasio as we take another step towards a better, fairer and safer New York.”
The mayor’s office boasted that New York City has the lowest incarceration rate of any large U.S. city. The city has an incarceration rate of 167 people per 100,000 residents, versus 229 in Los Angeles, 252 in Chicago, 338 in Houston and 784 in Philadelphia in 2016.
The low incarceration rate is due, in part, to the DOC’s new Supervised Release program, which claims to have diverted more than 6,000 people from jail since launching in 2016. The program “lets judges assign eligible, lower-risk defendants to a supervisory program that enables them to remain at home with their families and continue working while awaiting trial.”
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357