A New York state commission that oversees New York City’s jail system may move to close the troubled complex at Rikers Island ahead of the city’s 10-year timeline to do so, citing the city’s inability to correct longstanding problems there, the New York Times reports. A Commission of Correction report found that despite increased scrutiny from state and federal investigators in recent years, violent incidents have risen from 2016 to 2017. “Given the city’s inaction and protracted 10-year proposal, it is now time for the commission to examine steps to expeditiously close Rikers and to ensure that the constitutional rights of inmates and staff are protected,” the report said.
The release of the report came two hours before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to build a new jail in the Bronx, as well as retrofit three other facilities in other boroughs, as part of a strategy to vacate Rikers Island. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief counsel, Alphonso David, said the city’s plan to close Rikers within 10 years was not legally binding, but he added that the plan was “wholly unacceptable and repugnant to federal and state constitutional principles.” Rikers has had national attention for its brutality, spawned federal investigations and become a lightning rod for protests. State officials said the commission could issue a citation to New York City for failure to correct violations. If the city failed to provide evidence that it could bring Rikers into compliance, the state would have the option of moving to close the complex. De Blasio reiterated that he wanted to close Rikers as soon as possible, but said that absent any criminal justice reforms in Albany this spring — in areas such as bail, parole, and speedy trials that would help reduce the jail population — the most realistic time frame remained 10 years.