NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The process of shutting down Rikers Island is getting underway.

City and Department of Correction officials announced Tuesday that one of the nine jails on Rikers will close this summer as part of a long-term goal to get inmates into facilities closer to home.

“Every day we are making New York City’s jail system smaller, safer and fairer,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This announcement is an important step in our plan to close Rikers Island and create more community-based facilities to better serve people in custody and our hard-working correctional staff.”

The unit scheduled for closure, the George Motchan Detention Center, houses about 600 men.

The overall prison population in New York City has dropped to below 9,000 for the first time since 1982.

Shutting down Rikers is an evolving process. Currently there are not enough facilities or capacity at detention centers in other boroughs to take the Rikers population. Those only have a capacity for 2,300 people, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association called the plan to close the George Motchan Detention Center reckless.

“Currently, there is a backlog of more than 700 inmates waiting to serve time for committing crimes while incarcerated. If we truly have less inmates in our custody, then it means that we have additional cells available to remedy this backlog and could easily put those inmates in GMDC, rather than closing it,” COBA President Elias Husamudeen said. “Any mayor who has any understanding of basic law enforcement and correction management tactics knows that closing jails without first creating a plan to make the jail system safer is outrageous.”

The city is also employing alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders such as supervised release and community programs.

Officials said this will not translate into reduced staff at the current facility but will allow for better supervision and increased training.

 

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