Mayor de Blasio, anxious to prove that his plan to replace Rikers Island is moving forward, this week unveiled his scheme for new, smaller jails in four boroughs.
It looks nice enough on paper (as such plans usually do), but leaves major questions unanswered — and raises a whole lot of concerns.
Because City Hall is touting this as not just a relocation of prisoners but “a complete reshaping of our justice system.”
Each of the four new facilities, meant to integrate into local communities, will hold 1,510 inmates, for a maximum jail population of just over 6,000 and an expected daily average of just 5,000.
Rikers now detains 8,300, with room for 5,000 more. Its population has dropped drastically in recent years, thanks to historically low crime rates, plus such measures as bail reform, diversion programs and the decriminalization of many quality-of-life offenses.
Yet there’s no guarantee violent crime will remain this low. If the city needs to put more offenders behind bars, where will they go? Is this plan going to cement lenient policies in place by limiting the available jail space?
Correction officers also warn that spreading out the population won’t keep guards any safer — particularly if the use of preventive detention is discouraged or banned.
In all, the mayor’s plan is far from being a done deal. Community opposition is mounting in The Bronx: Mott Haven residents say siting a jail there will jeopardize their economic revitalization.
And there’s no explanation where the estimated $10 billion (likely much higher in the end) to pay for it will come from.
Wishful thinking won’t make up for dancing around the tough questions.
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