Thursday, the New York City Council will vote on the latest proposal to close the centralized detention facilities on Rikers Island and replace them with a borough-based jail system. The baseline estimate of how many inmates that system will be expected to accommodate by 2026 was recently revised down to just 3,544 — about half of its population today.
When one considers (1) the seriousness of the charges most city jail inmates are facing, (2) the level of violence those inmates engage in behind bars and (3) the potential for future crime increases, one thing becomes crystal clear: There is simply no way to cut the average daily jail population — which the city itself has described as “more violent and difficult to manage” — that much more without leaving dangerous criminals on the street, where you can be sure they will continue to diminish the quality of life in their neighborhoods.
According to the most recent data from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, 62 percent of the city’s pretrial jail population is facing violent felony charges; 30 percent are facing other felony charges. Just 8 percent of pretrial detainees are facing misdemeanor charges. The vast majority of these inmates are repeat offenders.
Historically, about 75 percent of the city’s jail inmates have previously been admitted at least once. For an idea of how cutting the number of jail inmates facing felony charges by about 2,500 (roughly 50 percent) in less than seven years will play out, just think back to last week when Randy Santos — who was out on bail thanks to anti-pretrial detention activists, despite his violent history — allegedly bludgeoned four people to death in Chinatown.
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