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NYC to shrink borough-based jails planned to replace Rikers Island

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As the city’s detainee population shrinks, so will the jails set to replace Rikers Island, the city says

Max Touhey

The four borough-based jails planned to replace Rikers Island will be smaller than expected thanks to a decrease in the city’s prison population, THE CITY first reported.

In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the infamous jail complex would close in 2026, a year earlier than expected. The four jails that will replace it will be located at 125 White Street in Manhattan; 320 Concord Avenue in the Bronx; 275 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn; and 126-02 82nd Avenue in Queens. And now, the city believes it can reduce the size of each facility, though the specifications for each borough’s new jail have yet to be released.

Alacia Lauer, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), said that back in 2017, when the plan to close Rikers officially launched, New York City’s jail population was 9,000; at that time, the city had planned for a system-wide population of 7,000 by 2022, and 5,000 by 2027. But citywide criminal justice initiatives helped bring the number of incarcerated individuals down sooner than expected.

“Today the population is just over 7,600—we are way ahead of schedule,” Lauer told Curbed. MOCJ believes that number will continue to decrease once bail reform legislation that recently passed in the state legislature is implemented, and estimates that the population could reach 4,000 by 2026.

The bail reform law, which is due to be implemented in 2020, eliminated cash bail, and therefore jail time, for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. In April, the Bronx Defenders and several other advocacy groups lauded the legislation’s passage.

“Starting today, nobody should be held on bail that they cannot afford, without seeing the evidence in their case, and nobody should be deprived of their right to a speedy trial,” the statement by The Bronx Defenders, and other organizations said.

“We must look forward to the new realities of the criminal procedure law, and dispense once and for all with the unfair system that has harmed so many.”