Golden: De Blasio’s Rikers closure plan could handcuff city
A state senator who used to walk the beat as a cop is raising a red flag over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close the infamous Rikers Island jail complex.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), a retired New York City police officer, said he is troubled by the announcement de Blasio made on March 31 that the city intends to empty out Rikers Island.
Under the plan, the city will work to significantly decrease the inmate population of Rikers Island and then close the facility outright within 10 years.
There are currently 9,500 inmates housed in all of the city’s jails, according to the mayor.
But Golden said that if de Blasio is intent on closing Rikers Island, he also needs to simultaneously come up with a plan to keep the city’s residents safe from crime.
“It is startling to see a conceptual agreement on such a major issue without an actual plan to maintain public safety in the city of New York,” Golden said in a statement.
The Rikers Island closure proposal was first issued as part of a recommendation made by a 27-member blue ribbon panel led by Hon. Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, studying the jail complex. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito formed the panel and the mayor agreed with the closure recommendation.
The plan also calls for the city to open five smaller jails, with one in each of the five boroughs. The locations for the new jails have not yet been selected.
Golden also expressed reservations about that part of the plan.
“Will the final plan be one similar to the decentralized plan developed to address the homeless crisis our city is facing? Which communities throughout the five boroughs will now be forced to house a city jail?” Golden asked. “There needs to be a long-term plan that focuses on the safety of New Yorkers and at the same time sees justice served. As the mayor and the City Council advance the closure of Rikers Island, the reality is that crime will continue to take place on the streets of New York City. And when crimes happen and arrests are made, people will need to be put behind bars.”
Rikers Island first opened in 1932.
In his announcement at City Hall on Friday, the mayor emphasized that the closure plan will take time.
“This is going to take a lot of work. There is no quick fix here, and anyone who says there is a quick fix isn’t being honest,” he said. “Now let’s be clear [about] what this is going to take. This begins with lowering the jail population overall. We have to reduce our jail population overall, and that begins and ends with reducing crime.”
The city will incorporate such tools as alternative sentencing and bail reform as part of the effort to reduce the jail population.
“Today, we’ve got about 9,500 people in custody in our entire jail system. That number must get down to 5,000 people to allow us to get off of Rikers Island,” the mayor said.
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