New York is leading a historic decarceration plan. Our plan is to close Rikers Island and replace it with a smaller network of modern jails.
The plan to close Rikers Island and build a borough-based jail system is
guided by three basic principles and was shaped by valued input from the community:
- Our jail system can be much smaller with thousands fewer people in jail
- Our jails should be safer with modern, well-designed facilities that promote the dignity of those who visit, work and are incarcerated
- The justice system should be fairer, changing the culture inside the jails, fostering community connections and providing greater access to services
The City’s plan to close the jails on Rikers Island will dramatically shrink the jail system in New York City. Through this plan, the City will:
- Reduce the number of people in jail to no more than 3,300—the lowest jail population since 1920 (a century ago)
- Reduce the number of operating jails from 11 to four borough-based facilities
- Currently the City operates 11 jails—eight on Rikers Island and one in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx (the Barge)
- The City already closed one jail on Rikers (GMDC)
- Reduce the total system capacity by nearly three-quarters
- Continue to provide and expand alternative to detention and alternative to incarceration programs. The City has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in these programs since the beginning of the administration.
Safer and Fairer
The jails on Rikers Island and the current borough facilities were designed in a different era and do not meet the City’s justice goals. The new facilities will have:
- Safer housing units, primarily housed in single cells with no more than 32 people, a best practice design known to promote safety.
- Ample programming space within the housing units, providing individuals with greater access to educational, recreational, and tailored programming.
- Borough facilities will house people closer to their communities and courts, allowing people to maintain family ties and access legal and community services.
- Visiting space based on best practices/modern designs with child friendly areas.
- All facilities will have modern air conditioning and heating.
- Access to natural light in the dayrooms and individual housing to ensure as normalized environments as possible in a jail setting.
- Design enables best practices in safety and improves lines of sight.
This plan will not be easy. Historically, community, land use requirements, and the high cost of acquiring and developing new land have prevented the City from siting new jails or even expanding existing jails. And it will not be fast. We estimate it will take at least a decade. In order to achieve our goal, we must have a jail population that is small enough to be housed safely off Rikers Island. On an average day in 2017, there were a total of approximately 9,400 people incarcerated in city jails with space for just 2,300 people in existing facilities in the boroughs. To close Rikers and replace it with a new, smaller network of jails, we will have to continue to bring the jail population down while ensuring that we sustain the City’s historically low crime rate – which is down 76% from 1990.
We believe these obstacles are surmountable. And we are committed to the transparent partnership with New Yorkers across the city and with government, including the City Council and the State, required to close Rikers Island for good.
Download the complete report for our plan to create a correctional system with a smaller jail population, safer facilities, and fairer culture inside.
Major milestones in the plan to close Rikers Island: