And in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday he hopes to accelerate the closure of the notorious Rikers Island jail, which he previously promised to close within 10 years. The plan would see the city build a new jail in the Bronx while expanding existing jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Mayor de Blasio said it would also require a sharp reduction in the number of people New York puts behind bars.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “For this plan to work, in addition to the new facilities, we have to keep driving down the jail population. I’m going to say this every time we talk about this issue. We now are at about 9,000 individuals in our jail system on any given day. That number must go down to 5,000 for this overall plan to work. Now that’s going to take a lot. We believe it can be done. And we believe, when it’s done, it will be crucial to breaking that cycle of incarceration.”
A 2017 investigation by the Justice Department found that Rikers is home to a “culture of violence” that regularly sees prisoners beaten by both guards and other inmates. Among the cases of injustice that have called attention to Rikers is the story of Kalief Browder, who committed suicide in 2015 at the age of 22, after he was sent to Rikers for nearly three years without trial—much of it in solitary confinement—after he was accused of stealing a backpack.