In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a “roadmap” to shutdown the Rikers Island prison over the next 10 years. On Thursday, he took the first step towards making that a reality.
His administration has now put out a request for proposals to see if the existing jails in Manhattan and Brooklyn can accommodate additional inmates, if a shuttered jail in Queens can be reopened, and if all three spaces can be expanded, the New York Daily News reports.
This RFP also asks designers to consider new sites for jails that are accompanied by site-specific programs for inmates. A commission had previously recommended that prisons be located in all five boroughs next to their respective courthouses, according to the Daily News, but de Blasio has been opposed to opening a prison on Staten Island.
At present Rikers houses about 9,400 inmates everyday. The other existing jails can only accommodate about 2,300 people each, so the city will have to drastically reduce its inmate population or expand those places. Among the initiatives the administration is going to undertake to reduce incarceration and improve existing conditions are providing community alternatives to jail sentences for less than 30 days, improving food services, and allowing for longer in-person visits in jails with renovated seating areas.
Submissions for the RFP are due next month, and the city will likely make a decision early next year.