As Chair of Chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, which oversees the Fire Department, Department of Correction, Department of Probation, and the Office of Emergency Management, I have worked to improve the city’s criminal justice system through supporting expanded diversion opportunities, transitional services, and the closing of Rikers Island. My statement on closing Rikers is here.
Statement from Council Member Crowley on the closure of Rikers Island:
“Moving jail operations to smaller, borough-based jails located near courthouses, which was DOC’s original practice, is a better plan than our City’s current detection centers on Rikers Island.”
In Queens, the Queens House of Detention, which is adjacent to the Criminal Courthouse in Kew Gardens, has the capacity to hold the needed amount of detainees in our borough. The Council Member believes this jail could be renovated and reopened to serve as a more efficient location for those awaiting trial in Queens' criminal court. This smaller, contained facility would not only be safer for DOC staff and detainees, but save taxpayer dollars by cutting transportation and personnel costs.
“It’s true that closing Rikers Island is a lofty goal, and a potentially contentious plan, but after years of work, reforms and trial-and-error, I believe it is necessary to move this city forward.”
Since taking office in 2009, Council Member Crowley has served as the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services. In this position, she has had an inside look at Department of Correction’s (DOC) operations and the dangerous conditions on Rikers Island. For years, she has pushed the DOC to make Rikers Island a safer, more functional place of detainment.
But, despite a decline in Rikers’ population, and millions of tax dollars and resources being allocated to the DOC, we continue to see deeply-rooted systemic issues and out of control violence.
For the last year, an independent commission comprised of city officials, academics, former judges and advocates have studied the conditions on Rikers Island. This commission recently released its recommendation -- a plan in which the jails and DOC operations on Rikers Island could close within 10 years.
Currently, more than half of the population on Rikers Island changes each week, the majority of detainees are there because they cannot afford to post bail. All sentenced inmates should be housed in a state prison facilities, outside of New York City.
Council Member Crowley has been a strong voice, holding the administration accountable when it comes to decreasing violence on Rikers Island and taking on meaningful reforms. Read more about this here: Councilwoman asks for comptroller audit of city data on Rikers violence.