Oct. 18 (UPI) — The New York City Council voted Thursday to approve a plan overhauling the city’s corrections systems by opening four new jails and closing Rikers Island.
The council approved the $8.7 billion land-use plan — proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017 — voting 36-13 to close Rikers by 2026 and 35-14 to replace the island prison complex with smaller jails in four of the city’s boroughs.
All four council members presiding over the districts where the new prisons will be built — Karen Koslowitz, D-Queens; Stephen Levin, D-Brooklyn; Margaret Chin, D-Manhattan; and Diane Ayala, D-Bronx — voted in favor of the plan.
“This will be a vote for a new criminal justice system, a vote against mass incarceration,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. “This is a vote that recognizes the dignity of people. This is a vote of conscious, this is a vote of progress.”
The four new jails to replace the 10,000-bed Rikers complex will have a combined daily capacity of 3,300, requiring the city to reduce the jail population by more than half by the time Rikers is set to close in 2026.
Critics, including City Council Republican leader Steven Matteo, questioned whether this was possible.
“It will require putting more potentially dangerous offenders back on the street, jeopardizing public safety,” Matteo said.
Officials said the new jails will also be smaller and more humane, providing detainees with job training, mental health counseling and education services.
The city also announced $265 million in spending efforts to keep people out of jail and support those who have been released.