Photo Courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
As of Jan. 1, the City Department of Correction’s jail population is 8,705.
By Forum Staff
Thanks to historic reductions in inmate population, the City is set to close its first jail facility on Rikers Island this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday.
The decision is part of Hizzoner’s plan to shutter Rikers Island in the next 10 years. The closure of the George Motchan Detention Center in a matter of months is made possible by the dramatic reduction of the City’s jail population, which fell below 9,000 for the month of December, a record-low figure last reported in 1982.
As of Jan. 1, the Department of Correction’s jail population is 8,705.
The GMDC, according to Correction numbers, houses approximately 600 men. Its closure will bring the total number of operational Rikers Island facilities from nine to eight and it will not result in layoffs or a reduction in DOC uniformed staff, the administration noted. Instead, it will help DOC reduce overtime, provide important training and support, and strengthen staff in other key areas. In the coming months, DOC will develop plans on the transfer of uniformed staff and detainees to other facilities.
“The Department of Correction and the City are committed to closing Rikers and today, we begin delivering on that commitment,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann. “It is something we are able to do because of our Department’s reforms in creating safer jails and the City’s work in creating a fairer criminal justice system. Under Mayor de Blasio’s administration, we have reduced our jail population by 21 percent and have helped make our jails safer. We will continue building on our progress in reducing our jail population through programs that provide life and work skills that help individuals in custody re-enter our community.”
In March, de Blasio and then-City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced the plan to close Rikers Island and create a jail system that is smaller, safer and fairer. Because existing borough-based facilities have the capacity to house only approximately 2,300 people, there is no immediate way to safely house the current DOC population off-Island. According to the administration, expanding the capacity in the boroughs while simultaneously implementing a series of strategies to significantly reduce the jail population is currently underway. The Justice Implementation Task Force will coordinate the work of the many groups inside and outside of government to ensure effective implementation of the de Blasio’s roadmap.
And last October, the City launched a new program that will replace short jail sentences for minor, low-level offenses (typically under 30 days) with services that help prevent recidivism. Working with the district attorneys in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, the program gives judges the option of sentencing people to these community-based programs rather than jail. Additionally, in 2017, the administration also announced that every person in DOC’s custody will receive re-entry services to help connect them with jobs and opportunities outside of jail, as well as five hours of programming per day to address vocational, educational, and therapeutic needs.
“Every day we are making New York City’s jail system smaller and safer,” de Blasio added.