New York City’s historic decarceration efforts to accelerate ahead of the closure of Rikers Island, resulting in 700 fewer people in the jail system than previously forecasted
City officials have revised the estimated jail population to 3,300 by 2026, down from the earlier estimate of 4,000, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson announced. The new figure will serve as the baseline for plans to build four smaller, safer, more humane facilities to replace the current outdated jails on Rikers Island and elsewhere. The revised population estimate will mark the lowest jail population in New York City in a century and is estimated to be the lowest jail population rate among the nation’s largest cities.
"Mass incarceration did not begin in New York City, but it will end here, said Mayor de Blasio." With the lowest rate of incarceration of any major city, we are proving you don’t need to arrest your way to safety. New York is a telling a different story, one where we can keep fathers at home and kids in schools and still be the safest big city in America."
“Just a few years ago, the Lippman Commission’s projection of a 5,000 average daily population was considered by many to be overly optimistic. To now reach 3,300 is an extraordinary achievement, and the culmination of years of hard work to move away from the failed policies of mass incarceration. But we will not rest. We will keep fighting to bring this number down even further. New York City should be a model of progressive criminal justice reform nationwide,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“The new city jail population estimate of 3,300 by 2026 reflects a new model of safety being built in New York City in which police, prosecutors and courts have lightened the touch of the criminal justice system while crime has continued to drop," said Liz Glazer, Director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. "The City’s successful diversion and alternatives to incarceration programs, such as the nationally recognized Supervised Release program, keeps people from entering jail. Our robust reentry services such as Jails to Jobs help people from coming back. And our community-based violence interruption programs, such as the Crisis Management System, helps people steer clear of the justice system entirely. This foundation of reform, built over the last five years, will provide current and future generations of New Yorkers with an even smaller, safer, fairer justice system.”
The updated jail population estimate will allow the City to build new facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx appropriate for an even smaller number of detainees. Each facility will now anticipate an average daily population of fewer than one thousand people—less than half the population of the largest facility currently operating on Rikers Island.
The 3,300 estimate comes after City officials analyzed the impact of the City’s many successful reform measures, such as the award-winning, nationally recognized Supervised Release diversion program, which will now expand to further reduce the population of pretrial detainees that comprise the majority of individuals incarcerated in city jails. These estimates also reflect the major role bail reform and other state reform measures will have on the number of pretrial detainees in the city’s jails.
The lower population estimate is the latest announcement by Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson ahead of the Council’s anticipated Oct. 17 vote to replace the current dilapidated jail facilities on Rikers Island, as well as the old borough-based jails in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the barge in the Bronx. Those aging jails will be replaced with four new facilities that prioritize safety for staff and detainees, as well as programming and services that will help individuals to reenter their communities.
Earlier this month the Administration and Council leadership committed to change the zoning of Rikers Island to ban its use for incarcerating individuals going forward. This land use proposal will guarantee the permanent closure of jails on Rikers Island.
The new 3,300 population update reflects the City’s ongoing efforts to end the era of mass incarceration by providing a new model of safety and progressive justice, both in city jails and beyond.