Community-based borough jails proposed to replace Rikers Island

NEW YORK CITY, New York (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled plans Wednesday to replace facilities on Rikers Island with four community-based jails in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens.

The modern facilities will be designed for integration into surrounding neighborhoods, which city officials hope will promote safety and support for the people who work and reside within the communities.

Plans for the jails also include community space, ground-floor retail and parking. The city intends to offer quality health, education, visitation and recreational services that will help people reintegrate once they are released.

"We're taking a big step forward in the process of closing Rikers Island and creating a modern community-based jail system that is smaller, safer and fairer," de Blasio said. "Now we can move full steam ahead on the engagement and planning for our new facilities so we can close Rikers as fast as possible."

One of de Blasio's goals after announcing the plans to close jails on Rikers Island in 2017 was to safely reduce the jail population to 5,000 people and transition to a local borough-based jail system.

When the city released its plans in June 2017, its jails held an average of 9,400 people on any given day.

One year later, the jail population has dropped by almost 13 percent to around 8,200, the lowest level in more than three decades.

Neighborhood advisory bodies led by community leaders have been organized to provide feedback on design, program and neighborhood integration, as well as tackle a range of quality of life concerns within the neighborhoods where these sites will be located.

To date, the city has held meetings with community groups and local elected officials and conducted focus groups with correctional officers, service providers, defenders, educators, formally detained people and families of justice-involved people, among others.

The city has also launched a citywide alternative-to-bail program that allows eligible people to remain in the community while waiting for trial and a program that replaces short jail sentences for minor, low-level offenses (typically under 30 days) with services aimed at preventing reoffending.

De Blasio also announced that every eligible person in the Department of Correction's custody will receive re-entry services to help connect them with jobs and opportunities outside of jail, as well as the option to receive to five hours of programming per day to address vocational, educational and therapeutic needs.

"These new jails will enable this city to close Rikers Island, which I know will help make this city a better place," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. "The new facilities are designed to be safer for both the people incarcerated as well as the staff. The next chapter of criminal justice in New York City is beginning, and I couldn't be prouder."

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