Closing Rikers by 2027
A year ago, when the number of people detained in New York City jails was 5,925, we released data-driven recommendations to ensure New York City meets its deadline to close the violent and dangerous jails on Rikers Island. Today—one year later—the size of the city's jail population is nearly the same—5,662*—with a majority of people being held on Rikers. Additionally, 11 people have died after being held by the city—a rate that is on track to exceed last year’s toll of 16 lives tragically lost.
We developed these recommendations in collaboration with the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, which provided the initial blueprint for closing Rikers.
By adopting the recommendations now, the city will be able to:
- Fulfill its commitment to close Rikers by 2027.
- Improve overall safety with effective alternatives for the many people currently detained there.
The approaches recommended in the report include:
About nine out of 10 people in custody on Rikers have not been convicted of a crime, yet are exposed daily to notoriously dangerous conditions as they await trial. For many, Supervised Release is an effective option, allowing individuals to remain safely in their communities with access to needed services and support. Five years of research shows that, compared to bail, Supervised Release ensures high rates of return to court while having no effect on the rates of re-arrest. The vast majority of Supervised Release participants are not rearrested for new violent offenses.
These programs provide options for individualized support that address underlying issues outside of jails and prisons. For people with severe mental health diagnoses, programs like Brooklyn Mental Health Court provide long-term treatment and supportive services in the community. Others, like Project Reset, divert people even earlier in the process, holding them accountable while allowing them to avoid a life-changing conviction.
Releasing the most vulnerable:
Our recommendations call for prioritizing the release of individuals based on their lower chance of re-arrest and higher vulnerability to health risks and other dangers of incarceration. This population includes those with health conditions or mental health needs, women and gender-expansive people, and people ages 55 and up.
Ultimately, reducing the number of people who are incarcerated starts with crime prevention. This requires us all to work together to ensure communities have the resources—mental health services, stable housing, economic opportunity, access to affordable and nutritious food, and more—that allow people to live safe, healthy lives.
READ THE REPORT
More jail does not equal more safety, in New York and beyond.
*Data as of July 19, 2021, and July 19, 2022. Source.