Bay Ridge

De Blasio seeks backing for Rikers Island closure plan

His re-election campaign website posts petition

April 17, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio is asking supporters of his re-election bid to sign a petition to support his plan to close Rikers Island. AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close Rikers Island has now become a part of his bid to win a second term in office. In an email letter to supporters, de Blasio bluntly issued a request to his backers to stand behind his proposal to shut the jail complex.

The mayor’s letter includes a link to a petition on his campaign website supporting the effort to close Rikers Island.

“You have probably read the headlines, but I wanted to share the news with you directly: New York City will close the Rikers Island jail. This is going to take a lot of work, many years, and a number of tough decisions along the way, but it will happen,” de Blasio wrote in the letter he sent out to supporters on April 12.

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.

“Closing Rikers must start with lowering the jail population overall. That is job one. Twenty years ago, there were more than 20,000 people in our jails. Today we have less than half that number, and crime is down to historic lows. But to close Rikers, we have to get the number of people in our jail systems below 5,000 individuals,” de Blasio wrote.

The Democratic mayor, who is running for re-election on Nov. 7, pointed to neighborhood policing as a necessary part of the equation in the plan to reduce the jail population to the point where it would be safe to close Rikers Island. Neighborhood policing “has driven down crime to record lows,” according to de Blasio, who is also pushing alternative sentencing and bail reform as ways to cut the number of inmates.

“But we must also reduce recidivism in New York City. That is why every inmate will get education, training and re-entry planning from the day they arrive on Rikers,” de Blasio told supporters in his letter.

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The letter ends with instructions to follow a link to his website where supporters can find the petition. “We are going to end the era of mass incarceration with this change, and I need to know you’re with me,” de Blasio wrote.

The mayor first announced his plan to close Rikers Island on March 31.

The plan has come under heavy criticism from Republicans like state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), a retired New York City police officer, who said he is troubled by it.

If de Blasio is serious about closing Rikers Island, he also needs to come up with a plan to keep the city’s residents safe from crime, according to Golden.

“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 de Blasio plan also calls for the city to open five smaller jails; one in each of the five boroughs. The locations for the new jails have not been selected.

Golden 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. “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.”

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To read the petition, visit act.billdeblasio.com/page/s/rikers-island-jail?source=em170412-full.

 

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