Faith Leaders Support Plan to Close Jails on Rikers Island

Tags: Currents, Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Faith, Family, Queens, NY

Currents News Staff

The New York City Council on Oct. 17 passed a plan to close the detention centers on Rikers Island by 2026 and move inmates to four smaller jails in New York City — a project that has the backing of local faith leaders, including Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.

“It’s very clear that the conditions at Rikers are very poor, immoral and subhuman,” Bishop DiMarzio said last month at a press conference in lower Manhattan, where he and other religious leaders called for the jails on Rikers Island to be closed.

[RELATED: New York Religious Leaders Call for Closure of Rikers Island]

“We need to do something, and unless we do, it’s going to stay the way it is,” Bishop DiMarzio said.

Cardinal Dolan agrees. “We ministers are passionate about the closing of Rikers Island and for the continued reform of our justice system. Why? Because simply put, we have to,” he said at the press conference. “God had told us to bring compassion, mercy and justice to those who incarcerated.”

The move from Rikers Island, however, is opposed by residents in the communities where the jails will be located and by Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who said the city won’t be as safe because there won’t be enough prison cells.

The detention centers on Rikers Island have about 7,300 inmates. The four replacement jails will have about 3,300 beds, according to reports. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office projects there will be fewer inmates because of lower crime rates and because of other programs to treat and rehabilitate criminals.

De Blasio originally proposed the plan, which will cost $8.7 billion, in 2017.

The jails will be located at sites of current or past detention centers, including the Brooklyn Detention Complex in Boerum Hill and the now-closed Queens Detention Center in Kew Gardens. The two others will be in the Bronx and Manhattan.