On Thursday, October 17 the New York City Council voted to close Rikers Island, the infamous jail located on an island in the East River between Queens and the Bronx. The closing was approved with a 36-13 vote.
Rikers, New York City’s main jail complex, will close by 2026 for smaller prisons based in each borough. NPR reports the smaller prisons will be located closer to courthouses in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens.
“What we are doing today will reshape the city for generations to come and impact the lives of every New Yorker,” said Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker on Thursday. “For decades, our city was unfair to those who became involved in the justice system, and the overwhelmingly majority who were caught up were Black and brown men.”
The infamous jail has a controversial reputation for abuse, violence and inmate neglect, drawing years of media scrutiny.
One of the more famous cases based in Rikers Island was the Kalief Browder case. Browder committed suicide on June 6, 2015 by hanging at his mother’s home. The Bronx native was held in prison for three years without being charged for a crime.
On May 15, 2010, Browder was apprehended by officers after Roberto Bautista claimed “two male blacks” stole his brother’s book bag carrying a camera, a credit card, $700 in cash and an iPod two weeks ago. Bautista identified Browder as the theft from the back of the police patrol car, despite police not finding a backpack on Browder.
Not even 24 hours after his arrest, Browder was charged with robbery, grand larceny, and assault. was denied because Browder was still serving probation from a previous case. The Bronx Community College graduate was taken to Rikers Island to await trial.
He was in solitary confinement for two years.
Browder’s supporters claim his death was the result of the mental, physical and sexual abuse he endured in prison.
Research by Mother Jones magazine in May 2013 named Rikers as one of the ten worst correctional facilities in the United States.