New York City is reportedly preparing a plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex, one of the most notorious—and most notoriously troubled—penal facilities in the country.
Citing four officials connected to Mayor Bill de Blasio, The New York Times reported on Friday that the mayor's office backs plans to shut down Rikers Island's infamous lock up and replace it with a series of new jails across the city's five boroughs. The Times notes while it's unclear what form the exact plan will take, its likely to closely resemble the recommendations made by an independent panel commissioned last year.
"The commission believes that the use of Rikers Island must be phased out over the next 10 years and its facilities demolished" the recently published report concluded.
While the mayor has made efforts to address some of the problems at the jail complex, including relocating adolescents housed there, he has resisted shuttering Rikers Island entirely in the past, calling it an "unrealistic" goal. However, that appears to have changed this week, as Judge Jonathan Lippman, head of the panel commissioned to study the jail, reportedly told his colleagues the mayor, who is up for re-election this year, was reversing his position.
Joining mayor de Blasio is NYC City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a vocal supporter of closing the prison complex, who last year said said last year that "We must explore how we can get the population of Rikers to be so small that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality."
Rikers Island, which is home to ten jail facilities and some 10,000 inmates, has long been a point of contention for New York City, with activists having spent years working to shut down the notoriously violent penal complex. Public outcry over the facility was renewed in 2015 after Kalief Browder, who spent three years locked up at Riker's because he couldn't afford bail in a non-violent crime case, killed himself after his release.
"Closing Rikers Island also provides a unique opportunity to redevelop the island," the report insisted, suggesting the grounds would also likely get a new name.
The commission's full report is expected to be released to the public on Sunday.