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New York mayor vows to close Rikers Island jail complex

By Daniel Uria
New York mayor vows to close Rikers Island jail complex
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to close the city's Rikers Island jail complex, stating the jails could be closed within 10 years if falling crime rates and other reform can bring the city's jail population to about 5,000 people. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 1 (UPI) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed on Friday to close the Rikers Island jail complex.

Speaking at City Hall, de Blasio promised to work toward closing the island complex as an independent commission prepared to release a 97-page report recommending a $10.6 billion plan to replace Rikers with a series of smaller jails based in New York City's five boroughs.

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"This is a very serious, sober, forever decision," he said. "Once you're off, you're off."

De Blasio presented a timeline of 10 years to reduce the city's jail population to 5,000 in order to allow for a "complete departure of all inmates from Rikers Island" that would facilitate the closure.

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"It will take many years," he said. "It will take many tough decisions along the way. But it will happen."

The mayor did not acknowledge the recommendations made by the commission, nor did he provide specific details of where any new jail facilities in the city would be located.

De Blasio, who is running for reelection this year, had previously said closing Rikers was a "noble concept," but did not endorse the idea due to its high cost and lack of a viable replacement.

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Falling crime rates and efforts for bail reform eventually convinced de Blasio a plan to replace Rikers was possible, prompting his change in stance.

"A year ago, we didn't think it could be done," he said. "It would been irresponsible for me to say we had a plan if we didn't have a real plan. We now have a real plan."

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