For years calls for the closing of New York City’s infamous Rikers Island prison have been deafening, but apparently plans for such action probably won’t go into motion as officials expect the island to get many more inmates in the coming years.
According to the Gothamist, Rikers Island currently houses 5,940 prison inmates and according to Commissioner Louis Molina that number is expected to blow up to 7,000 within two years. Why that matters: in order for Rikers Island to close up shop, the jail has to have less than 3,300 prisoners behind bars to justify its closing and that number doesn’t look attainable by a long shot.
“In 2027, we will not be at 3,300,” Molina said during a City Council hearing Tuesday focused on problems at city jails. Construction has already begun on new jails to replace those on Rikers Island, and a city law forbids incarcerated people from being held there past that date.
So, Molina said, “We have to think about: Where does the balance of that population go if we are not at 3,300?”
Naturally his statement didn’t sit well with activists who’ve been calling for the closure of the infamous prison.
Advocates say decarceration is the only way forward, but the city is moving in an opposite direction.
”Why do we just say we’re going to throw our hands up and say nothing changes, and send more people here to die?” Sarita Daftary, co-director of Freedom Agenda, asked City Council members.
Still, with the spike in crime, shootings and killings in New York City over the past few years, many may feel decarceration may only embolden criminals as many are already blaming city officials and New York’s bail laws for repeat offenders continuously committing all sorts of crimes.
But while most people are aware of the criminal offenses taking place all over the Big Apple, not many know that New York City jails are the deadliest they’ve been in 25 years, according to analysis of city data conducted by the Gothamist.
Nineteen people have died in city custody or shortly after being released this year, out of an average daily population of nearly 6,000 people.
That’s the highest rate since 1996, when 84 people died out of an average daily population of about 20,000. Gothamist is tracking deaths in city custody here.
It’s basically damned if you do and damned if you don’t at this point.
What do y’all think? Should Rikers Island close its doors for good or does it need some kind of reform to keep the inmates from running it? Let us know in the comments section below.
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