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New York City Council Votes to Close Rikers Island Jail Complex

Maria Elena Vizcaino

(Bloomberg) -- The New York City Council voted Thursday to close the infamous Rikers Island jail complex as part of a sweeping criminal justice plan that includes building new borough-based detention centers in the next decade.

The plan calls for Rikers and other city jails to shutter by 2026. They’d be replaced by four modern jails -- one in each borough except Staten Island. They would hold an estimated 3,300 inmates, according to city estimates.

Proponents of the plan, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the move is a path toward ending mass incarceration in the largest U.S. city, but the borough-based jails have been met with push-back from activists who oppose the city’s spending to build new detention facilities.

“It was a historical meeting, a historical subject matter, a historical vote and hopefully the beginning of a new history for criminal reform change in the city of New York,” said councilwoman Adrienne Adams, whose district is in Queens.

The de Blasio administration included $8.7 billion in bonds to finance new jail facilities as part of its 10-year capital strategy plan. That would constitute almost 10% of New York City’s projected issuance of city debt over the next decade -- which expected to reach about $91 billion in that time -- according to figures in the mayor’s plan.

Protesters could set their sights on investments in local jail facilities next, said Jacob Kang-Brown, a researcher at the Vera Institute, an organization focused on criminal justice reform. Earlier this year, a string of Wall Street banks said they would stop providing financing for private prison companies after facing pressure from activists.

“Jail bonds are something they should be taking a second look at,” he said.

--With assistance from Amanda Albright.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Elena Vizcaino in New York at mvizcaino1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Elizabeth Campbell at ecampbell14@bloomberg.net, Michael B. Marois

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