NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Correction union leaders are blasting a report recommending the closing of the troubled Rikers Island jail complex.
“Reforming Rikers Island has become a trendy talking point for celebrity activists making documentaries and progressive politicians seeking re-election,” Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said Tuesday.
The 148-page report released Sunday outlines plans for replacing the city’s main jail with smaller community jails in the five boroughs. Closing the infamous penitentiary would require cutting the city’s prison population almost in half — to around 5,000 inmates — using bail reform, new sentencing procedures, and other strategies.
Husamudeen took a swipe at Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying the mayor reversed his position from a year ago when he dismissed closing Rikers as “a noble idea.”
“This report has only served as yet another convenient avenue for the mayor and the other politicians to kick the can down the road,” Husamudeen said, adding that the city should spend money on making Rikers Island a safer, 21st century facility.
In the past, de Blasio had said that replacing the jail would be too expensive, but on Friday he said he had changed his mind because the jail was housing fewer and fewer people, dropping below 10,000 from a high of 15,000 just a few years ago, according to city figures.
“We came to the conclusion in recent weeks as we looked more and more at the trajectories… that this goal is more attainable than ever before,” de Blasio said.
Union officials did not want to comment on a report that said officers are resorting to more violent measures to maintain order.
“But the majority 99.9 of the correction office and above that work Rikers Island are doing the right thing,” Patrick Ferraiuolo, president of the Correction Captains’ Association, said.
That report was issued Monday by a federal monitor overseeing reforms at the Rikers Island jail complex.
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