City Council Holds Final Hearing On Plan To Close Rikers Ahead Of Full Vote

Marla Diamond
October 16, 2019 - 1:29 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A City Council committee will hear arguments in support and opposition of the plan to close Rikers Island ahead of a full council vote on Thursday.  

Among those that want Rikers closed is Darren Mack, who tells WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond that he served time at the violent overcrowded jail as a teenager and knows the mistreatment at the facility.

“There's a culture of violence, the only solution for Rikers is to close it,” he said.

The plan calls for the city to spend more than $8 billion to shut the jail complex in the Bronx and replace it with four, smaller borough-based prisons in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The proposal has generated a slew of concerns among New Yorkers, especially those living in the areas where the jails are expected to be constructed.

Bronx Councilman Andy King notes that he will be voting against the plan.

RELATED: Report Estimates NYC Jail Population Will Be Cut In Half 

“How does closing Rikers fix the issues that we have in the criminal justice system? It doesn't put more judges in, it doesn't open up more spaces for more court, it doesn't make you have more TTB attorneys – it doesn't do any of that,” he said

Still, reform advocates say the large majority of inmates at Rikers have not been convicted of any crime and the $8 billion would be spent on greatly-needed improvements to the prison system in New York City, including better housing, education and more mental health resources.

Advocates add that shutting the prison complex and putting it into the boroughs will make it impossible to ignore prisoners who have been isolated on the island complex.

The proposal is expected to cost around $8.4 billion and the city is expecting to have the new jails built by 2027 in Chinatown, Kew Gardens, Boerum Hill and Mott Haven.