The first of nine prison facilities on Rikers Island will close this summer, and more may follow, New York City officials announced Tuesday.
“Big news on Rikers Island: with the population below 9k for the first time in 25 years, the Mayor will shutter a jail building on the island this summer. Huge step toward getting off Rikers Island for good,” said Eric Phillips, Mayor Bill De Blasio’s press secretary, on Twitter.
The George Motchan Detention Center houses roughly 600 men, but will close its doors as the city’s overall jail population continues to drop.
De Blasio announced in March that Rikers, which has been plagued by years of complaints of violence, corruption, and civil rights violations would be completely shut down in 10 years.
According to the New York Daily News, there were approximately 6,700 prisoners on Rikers as of Jan. 1. There are 8,700 prisoners in all city jails as of December, the first month in 30 years that the average daily population was below 9,000.
"Every day we are making New York City's jail system smaller, safer, and fairer," de Blasio said in a statement. "This announcement is an important step in our plan to close Rikers Island and create more community-based facilities to better serve people in custody and our hard-working correctional staff."
The city said the 300 corrections officers working in the Motchan facility will be moved to other locations.
But not everyone was happy. Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, warned that assaults would rise as prisoners are moved out of Motchan.
“With vicious assaults on correction officers occurring nearly every week, along with a near 30% increase in inmate on inmate slashings and stabbings department-wide, we had hoped Mayor de Blasio would have announced a plan today to make the jails safer. Instead, the Mayor shamelessly shared his plan to close one of the largest jail facilities on Rikers Island,” he said. “Shifting inmates from GMDC to other facilities on Rikers Island will only further increase the assaults.”
The plan to replace Rikers is to build new smaller jails in other boroughs, which is also part of the plan to help with prisoner re-entry and prevent recidivism.