By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning to move 16- and 17-year-olds out of Rikers Island and into a facility in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.
The plan calls for the city to upgrade the Horizon Juvenile Center as well as the Crossroads Juvenile Center in Bushwick, Brooklyn, which would hold the city’s 14- and 15-year-old detainees.
“For almost a century, 16- and 17-year-olds have been misplaced in an adult jail on Rikers Island. It’s high time we delivered on the improvements and reforms our youngest detainees need,” de Blasio spokesman Austin Finan said. “Moving these teens into a state-of-the-art facility will provide them with the programming and space they need to get on the right track to more productive futures. This investment in improved facilities will save millions in the long run while curbing the cycle of violence.”
A 2015 settlement with the Department of Justice on Rikers Island reforms called on the city to seek an alternative location to house inmates under 18, although it stopped short of requiring it. In an e-mail to supporters, de Blasio wrote “the fact is kids don’t belong on Rikers Island — and the reality is they never have. We’re taking steps to right this wrong.”
The cost of the plan is expected to be around $300 million and take four years for the public approval process and renovations to be completed. The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, chaired by former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals Joseph Lippman, endorsed the plan July 21.
“The announcement of plans to remove adolescents from Rikers Island — youth who never should have been detained at a facility built for adults — is extremely welcome news,” Lippman said. “Much, much more needs to be done, and audacious, effective, fearless solutions will be necessary to reform a jail network that is a manifestation of a criminal justice system that has failed to measure up to our highest ideals and failed generations of New Yorkers.”
De Blasio will now work on a different plan. One to replace his police commissioner Bill Bratton.
The 68-year-old Bratton announced said he will step down by the end of next year. He had previously mentioned he would not stay on if de Blasio won a second term in office.
“If things are going well, there’s never a good time to leave when things are going well, but there’s a right time and whether in your personal life, professional life, that’s something in my life I’ve tried to do, is find the right time and cause minimum restructuring if possible,” Bratton said.
De Blasio said the commissioner is doing a great job and he called the announcement premature.
“He’s made clear that he’s not going to stay into a second term,” he said. “I absolutely respect that, especially after all he’s done for the city over the years and that’s all there is to say at this point.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr