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New York City Council votes to close notorious Rikers Island jail

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to close...

Posted: Oct 18, 2019 10:30 AM

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to close Rikers Island jail Thursday and open four new borough-based facilities instead.

"Today is a day that the history books will look back on as a good day for New York City," Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. "This is a step forward, this is progress, this is the right thing to do."

The jail, which is on an island in the East River, has become a symbol of the ills of pretrial detention, most famously in the case of Kalief Browder. Browder took his own life after spending three years incarcerated at Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime.

The jail is also notorious for its violence and poor conditions. The US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York reached a settlement with the city in 2015 after a multi-year investigation found adolescent inmates were not protected from "the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by New York City Department of Correction staff and violence inflicted by other inmates."

Councilmember Robert Holden, a Democrat from Queens, was among the few to voice opposition to the plan.

"The closing of Rikers has become a religious movement, a symbol of criminal justice reform that will not actually solve the criminal justice system's problems," he said.

Calling the four planned replacement facilities "skyscraper jails," he expressed concern that they would be too congested in the event of a future crime spike.

"If the council votes in favor of this plan today, it will be a vote against the best interests of the constituents who elected us," Holden said. "It will also be against the best interests of detainees and corrections officers who will continue to endure the same situations in even more confined vertical spaces."

Others argued that the plan didn't do enough to make up for the failings of Rikers Island.

"I come from a world of trips to Rikers, of going up north to visit family members," said Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, a Democrat representing Brooklyn. "We as a body, for a plan of this magnitude, addressing a system of racism and mass-incarceration -- this process has been inappropriately rushed," she said.

Ampry-Samuel said that her district contains so-called million-dollar blocks, where the annual cost of incarcerating a city block's residents is a seven-figure sum.

"That means we spend a million dollars a year on average in New York City and in the state incarcerating my constituents on just one block," she said. "Their circumstances are my concerns, and this process did not address the circumstances that lead them to Rikers Island."

Ampry-Samuel's was one of many statements met with applause from the public section of the chamber's balcony.

The balcony was cleared prior to the vote, after protesters erupted in chants of, "No new jails."

City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo claimed that something had been thrown from the balcony, noting "throwing things from the balcony compromises the safety of every member of this body."

A protestor responded "your safety is not in jeopardy, the safety of young black and brown people is in jeopardy."

"The era of mass incarceration is over. It's over," de Blasio said in a press conference after the vote.

"This is about valuing our people, no longer condemning people and sending them on a pathway that only made their lives worse and worse."

According to de Blasio, New York's jail population has declined by nearly half in the last six years. The jail population has declined from 11,000 in 2014 to about 7,000 today, and is projected to be approximately 3,300 by 2026, de Blasio added in a press release.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751526

Reported Deaths: 13799
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033281788
Lake557151010
Allen41710692
St. Joseph36998565
Hamilton36604417
Elkhart29413461
Tippecanoe22914227
Vanderburgh22559400
Porter19359326
Johnson18477389
Hendricks17689317
Clark13228195
Madison13158344
Vigo12625253
LaPorte12420221
Monroe12211176
Delaware10968198
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Kosciusko9630121
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Warrick7860156
Floyd7812180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6972103
Morgan6765141
Dubois6221118
Marshall6211116
Cass6017110
Henry5902110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509176
Shelby501796
Lawrence4745122
Gibson445094
Clinton442755
Harrison441775
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109025

Reported Deaths: 20166
CountyCasesDeaths
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Cuyahoga1158292211
Hamilton814131250
Montgomery525601043
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Lucas43364820
Butler39021606
Stark33339929
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Delaware18860136
Licking16664222
Fairfield16577204
Trumbull16555482
Medina15613271
Greene15284248
Clark14237306
Wood13293200
Portage13251215
Allen11914239
Richland11608211
Miami10850225
Wayne9147223
Columbiana9036230
Muskingum8907135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8651250
Marion8646138
Erie8057165
Ashtabula7162179
Hancock6999132
Ross6946161
Geauga6841151
Scioto6536106
Belmont6159174
Union584649
Lawrence5734102
Jefferson5680158
Huron5547122
Sandusky5443126
Darke5420129
Seneca5349128
Washington5320109
Athens524360
Auglaize502287
Mercer487385
Shelby476895
Knox4572112
Madison444466
Ashland435797
Putnam4336103
Defiance432399
Fulton432174
Crawford4040110
Brown402461
Logan387677
Preble3856105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373681
Highland359865
Williams348278
Champaign344859
Guernsey325153
Jackson318254
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285550
Hardin275465
Henry273467
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269060
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220563
Carroll197348
Paulding176542
Meigs148540
Monroe136344
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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