Making good on his promise to shrink the city’s correctional system, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that the city will be closing two jails in 2020 — the Eric M. Taylor Center on Rikers Island in March, and the Brooklyn Detention Complex in Boerum Hill in January.
“With the lowest rate of incarceration of any major city and crime at historic lows, New York is again debunking the notion that you must arrest your way to safety,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “These two closures show that we are making good on our promise to close Rikers Island and create a correctional system that is fundamentally smaller, safer and fairer.”
The Brooklyn jail, which has been at 275 Atlantic Ave. since 1957, has a capacity of 759 inmates but only houses 400 of them. The Rikers Island jail, built in 1964 and expanded in 1973, can house 1,719 inmates but only has 850 people who are serving city sentences of a year or less.
Closing them, the mayor says, will result in better conditions for both inmates and correctional staff with improved programming and safer facilities and concentrated resources. Employees won’t lose their jobs — they will be reassigned to other facilities. Inmates will just be moved to other borough facilities, not to Rikers Island unless there is a specific housing need.
With a 39% drop in the jail population since de Blasio took office in 2013, the new State bail laws that go into effect on Jan. 1 and the expansion of community support services like the pre-trial Atlas program, the population is expected to decrease even further to below 3,300 inmates by 2026, the mayor’s office said.
Right now, the city’s jail population below 7,000.
“Today’s announcement is an important step forward in our efforts to bring about a new era of correctional practice in New York City,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann. “By consolidating our population and staff in the Department’s newer facilities, we will reduce overtime, expand officer training, more easily provide programs to individuals in custody, and ensure everyone can reap the benefits of the strategic investments we have made to enhance overall safety. This is an exciting opportunity to make the best use of the space we have available today while continuing to work towards building our future.”
In October, the City Council passed the land use application to allow the city to move forward with its plans for a borough-based jail system after a three-hour hearing. The highly controversial plan is to close Rikers Island by 2026 and build four smaller, borough-based jails.
Just last week, the city announced its timeline for acquiring the borough-based jail plans — requests for Qualifications for early work items were published Thursday with the remaining RFQs to be issued in the first quarter of 2020.
The city estimates the cost to build four new borough jails at $8.7 billion.