Queens congressional candidate believes Rikers ‘is the right location’ and needs to stay open

Photo via REUTERS/Mike Segar

Queens 3rd Congressional District candidate and former NYPD detective Michael Sapraicone discussed why he believes Rikers Island should remain open, despite plans for New York City to close the prison in the near future. He believes the conditions within the prison need to be improved, including how the incarcerated there are treated.

Sapraicone said that it would be very difficult for the city to find somewhere else to house all the inmates at Rikers should it close down. He also believes the overcrowding in prisons that would result from this could lead to more dangerous individuals being allowed back on the streets.

“You have over 6,600 inmates in Rikers,” Sapraicone said. “But if we start opening individual jails [in Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn], you’re not going to make the numbers. The four jails only hold about 3,3oo inmates.”

The last City Council during the final year of Bill de Blasio’s mayoral tenure passed a plan that would see Rikers close in 2027 and replaced with the four borough-based jails. The plan has since faced scrutiny from Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina.

According to Sapraicone, many residents living in the area of these individual jails may not feel as safe compared to if those locked up were in an isolated area like Rikers. He believes moving the inmates to within neighborhoods is a reflection of the City losing control of them.

“Rikers Island is the right location,” Sapraicone said. “Maybe things have to change there. Maybe we have to review things. Maybe we have to look at how we can make it a better situation for the inmates, the corrections officers and for the city. This is a good place for inmates to be. Rikers Island just needs to be fine-tuned. The City Council and City government need to work together, along with the state government.”

In order to address the facility’s reputation of abuse, Sapraicone recommended putting together an oversight committee to make sure the rules are followed there. This committee would also be responsible for ensuring the correctional officers and social workers there are properly trained. At the same time, he emphasized the importance of enforcing rules for the inmates.

“We have to have rules,” Sapraicone said. “We need rules to make things work. We need plans, rules oversight and training. We are lacking in those things.”

Sapraicone said the best way to address these issues, including the concerns about Rikers, is for leaders from both parties to be able to work together. While it may not be easy and could take some time, he believes a fair and open discussion is the best way to come up with solutions to the problems that New York City and New York State faces.

“We are capable of coming up with the right solutions to make things work for the City of New York, the state of New York and the U.S. government,” Sapraicone said. “Inmates are a problem, there’s no question about it, where to house these people. Migration is a problem. We can’t feed our own people, house our own people or educate our own people. We don’t want to turn anybody away who belongs here legally. We’re just letting anybody come into this country right now. We’re not fixing problems, we’re causing more problems.”

According to Sapraicone, cooperation among Democrats and Republicans in government is needed to assist local municipalities with issues like what New York City faces with Rikers.

Sapraicone is running for the Republican nomination for New York’s third congressional seat, which is currently occupied by controversial Congressman George Santos. The district covers Oyster Bay Cove, Glen Cove, Old Brookville, Levittown, Manhasset, Roslyn, Plainview, Bethpage, Port Washington, Hicksville, Jericho, Syosset, Mineola, Farmingdale, Massapequa Park and Great Neck on Long Island and Little Neck, Whitestone, Glen Oaks, Floral Park and Queens Village in Queens.