DeBla­sio Fa­vors Idea of Mov­ing Rik­ers' In­mates to Shut­tered Queens Jail

The Jewish Voice - - NEW YORK - By Re­becca Gold

Mayor Bill de Bla­sio likes the idea of us­ing a now closed Queens jail as a place to house the pris­on­ers from Rik­ers Is­land when it closes.

On Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 2, de Bla­sio's spokes­woman Natalie Gry­bauskas told the Daily News that de Bla­sio sup­ports the Queens De­ten­tion com­plex, which has al­ready been backed by eleven bor­ough City Coun­cil mem­bers, to be used as a re­place­ment jail site.

She said, “Ex­pand­ing and re­open­ing the Queens De­ten­tion Cen­ter would be an ideal first step and we have al­ready started to take a hard look at this site to de­ter­mine its fea­si­bil­ity.”

De­spite prom­ises to have Rik­ers shut down within the next ten years, the mayor has not given his opin­ion on any re­place­ment jail sites un­til now.

Gry­bauskas said, “The Mayor is com­mit­ted to clos­ing Rik­ers Is­land. For that to hap­pen, we need to con­tinue to re­duce the jail pop­u­la­tion, and we need coura­geous elected of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity lead­ers to help lo­cate po­ten­tial neigh­bor­hood-based jail sites. We thank these Queens of­fi­cials for their role in this process.”

Ac­cord­ing to The Daily News, “The Queens pols sent a let­ter to de Bla­sio ear­lier Mon­day ask­ing him to use the de­ten­tion cen­ter site in Kew Gar­dens, be­hind the bor­ough's court­house. The jail there was shut­tered 15 years ago af­ter decades of hold­ing de­tainees. The group in­cludes El­iz­a­beth Crow­ley, the chair of the crim­i­nal jus­tice com­mit­tee, and Karen Koslowitz, whose district the site is in. A com­mis­sion headed by for­mer chief judge Jonathan Lipp­man, which rec­om­mended shut­ting down the trou­bled jail com­plex on Rik­ers Is­land, said there should be smaller jails in each bor­ough, near their court­houses. Coun­cil mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing court sites in Man­hat­tan, Brook­lyn and the Bronx have said they'd be open to cre­at­ing or ex­pand­ing jails to make way for vi­o­lence-plagued Rik­ers to close.”

The ear­lier idea, which led to much op­po­si­tion, of us­ing Staten Is­land as the lo­ca­tion of the new jail has been ruled out by de Bla­sio.

The mem­ber of the Queens Coun­cil said that the Kew Gar­dens sites “for many years op­er­ated with lit­tle in­ci­dent to the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity” and re­open­ing it would “avoid the fraught process of plac­ing com­mu­nity jails in res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods through­out the bor­ough.”

The city jail pop­u­la­tion will still need to be nearly cut in half in or­der to close Rik­ers. Even with the open­ing of a new jail site, the num­ber of in­mates will still have to go from close to 10,000 down to around 5,500.

The now shut­tered Queens De­ten­tion Cen­ter has re­ceived a lot of sup­port for its re­open­ing to re­place Rik­ers Is­land.

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