NEW YORK (AP) — The city will close one of nine Rikers Island jails in the summer as part of a plan to shut down the troubled jail complex, the mayor announced on Tuesday.
“Every day we are making New York City’s jail system smaller and safer,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This announcement is an important step in our plan to close Rikers Island and create more community-based facilities to better serve people in custody and our hard-working correctional staff.”
De Blasio, a Democrat, said the city’s jail population fell to below 9,000 for December. As of Monday, the Department of Correction’s jail population was 8,705.
The city is working to identify sites that can replace Rikers, which sits in the East River between Queens and the Bronx. Officials also are assessing the capacity of three existing correction facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
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De Blasio revealed in March he intended to close the Rikers complex, saying it will take a decade. An independent commission formed after a string of brutality cases that exposed poor supervision, questionable medical care and corruption at Rikers also recommended its closure.
Crime has been falling in the nation’s largest city. De Blasio, at the swearing-in ceremony for his second term, boasted about the city recording the lowest number of annual homicides since the early 1950s. The police department’s preliminary count is 290 homicides for last year, a 14 percent drop from the year before.