New Report Estimates NYC Jail Population Will Be Cut In Half

Steve Burns
October 14, 2019 - 1:25 pm
Rikers Island

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New numbers from the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office estimates the city’s jail population will be cut in half over the next seven years, just in time for the closure of Rikers Island.

As WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reports, the reduction will be the result of a confluence of factors. Liz Glazer, director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, notes that includes fewer crimes are being committed, fewer arrests being made for low level offenses and reforms on the state level.

“Essentially, bail will only be able to be set on violent felons,” she says of the criminal justice system’s future.

She says that will have a significant impact on the number of people in city jails.

That population, according to an analysis done by the mayor's office, is expected to go from about 7,000 to about 3,300 in 2026.

The projection comes as the City Council prepares to vote Thursday on the plan to close Rikers Island and build four smaller, borough-based jails in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Glazer says the smaller jails will place an emphasis on prisoner reform rather than punishment.

“It's obviously very important to what the buildings are going to look like, what kinds of services they'll have inside,” she says.

However, the plan to shut Rikers Island has generated harsh criticism from New York City residents, who worry about what will become of their neighborhoods when high-rise prisons are introduced.

Meanwhile, Elias Husamudeen, the head of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, says the prisoner population predictions put out by the mayor’s office is “nothing but a political con game.”

RELATED: City Planning Commission Approves Plan For Borough-Based Jails

He says there is no definitive way to predict crime rates and called the report a public relations “smokescreen” from City Hall ahead of the Rikers’ vote.

“Don't act as if the reason you're doing it has anything to do with crime. You're doing it because you want that land, so take it,” he said, directing his frustration at city council members.

Officials decided last year to shut down Rikers Island by 2027, following years of complaints about violence by guards and gang members, mistreatment of prisoners and unjustly long sentences for minor offenses.