NYC City Council Backs Plan to Close Rikers as Activists Call for No New Jails

HeadlineOct 18, 2019

The New York City Council has approved an $8 billion plan to close Rikers Island by 2026 and build four new jails across New York City, in what many are calling a national model for prison reform. New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson backed the closing of Rikers.

Speaker Corey Johnson: “Conditions matter. These jails are disgusting. These jails should have been closed years ago. We are doing it today. I will proudly vote yes. Thank you all very, very much.”

For decades, human rights activists have protested the violence, abuse and mismanagement inside Rikers Island and have called for its closure, yet many activists now oppose the plan to replace Rikers with four new jails. The group No New Jails NYC staged a protest outside City Hall on Thursday. This is Nabil Hassein, a member of the group.

Nabil Hassein: “In 2015, the same mayor and a lot the same city councilmembers voted to increase the NYPD budget by over $100 million to hire 1,300 more cops. Now they want to spend 10, 11 — who knows how many — billions of dollars building what would be the tallest skyscraper jails in the world. These so-called progressives need to take that money and spend it on what would actually keep New Yorkers safe and keep New Yorkers out of jail, things like housing, education, healthcare, including mental healthcare. These are the things that the city should be spending resources on, instead of investing billions of dollars in locking up our children, our children’s children. They’re talking about multigenerational jails that would be here for decades. And we’re here to stop them.”

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