Rikers Island Jail—'the Worst Place on Earth'—Will Close

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announces plan to close US' largest jail
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2017 6:13 PM CDT
New York Will Close Country's Largest Jail, Mayor Says
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that he's developing a plan to shut down the massive jail at Rikers Island within 10 years.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

The days appear to be numbered for America's largest jail, once described as "the worst place on Earth," WPIX reports. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that Rikers Island jail will be closed. "It will take many years," CNN quotes de Blasio as saying. "But it will happen." Last year, the jail at Rikers Island was home to more than 10,000 inmates—most of them awaiting trial and not convicted of a crime. That same year, there were nearly 12,000 instances of violence there. According to the New York Times, Rikers has a "history of brutal violence" by both inmates and corrections officers. In one of the most notorious cases, a 16-year-old was held at Rikers for three years—800 of those days in solitary confinement—while subjected to horrific abuse. He eventually killed himself.

Advocates give a number of reasons to close the 85-year-old Rikers Island jail: newer and safer jails for both inmates and guards, reduced travel time for inmates, and easier visitation for family, to name a few. While details of the plan to close Rikers haven't been laid out, de Blasio gives a timeline of 10 years to reduce the prison population to 5,000 prior to closure. He says closing Rikers will "end the era of mass incarceration" in New York City. Last year, an independent commission recommended moving Rikers inmates to smaller jails to be built in each of New York's five boroughs at a cost of $10.6 billion. It's unclear if that's the current plan. (More Rikers Island stories.)

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