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Malliotakis Slams Plan to Close Rikers, Open Borough Based Jails in Testimony to City Council

STATEN ISLAND/BROOKLYN, NY – Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) on March 23 submitted written testimony to the New York City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee slamming plans to close the Rikers Island jail complex and open four “borough-based” jails across New York City. She instead urged the Council to use part of the $9 billion that would be used to build four new jails to address staffing shortages and modernize Rikers’ facilities to make them safer for both inmates and officers. 

“For too long this council has ignored the needs of those that keep us safe”,Malliotakis wrote. “I speak often with our law enforcement, both on the streets and those charged with keeping dangerous criminals secured behind bars. I have spoken to our corrections officers across this city about the staffing shortages, subsequent back-to-back 12-hour shifts, and dangerous environments for both guards and inmates on Rikers Island. To deny any of this is to ignore countless news stories, and even worse the testimonies of those that serve our communities as corrections officers themselves”.

Assaults on officers and inmates at the Rikers Island Jail Complex are at an all-time high, leading to more than 2,700 corrections officers retiring or resigning since 2016. For officers alone, assaults are up 24 percent, while inmate on inmate attacks are up 18 percent since last year. According to reports, slashing and stabbings have increased 100 percent, from 123 in 2020 to 247 in 2021. Additionally, in the last 12 months, more than two dozen reports have been filed from female corrections officers who have been sexually assaulted by inmates while on the job.

“I am gravely concerned with the plan to close Rikers Island by 2027 in favor of the so-called “Borough Based Jail System.” We can all agree that the facilities on Rikers need investment and modernization, however, the creation of several smaller facilities and closure of Rikers will certainly lead to less capacity and ultimately similar problems…”, Malliotakis added.

“It is time to invest in Rikers Island, not abandon it. The plans to build these jails in the 5 boroughs were originally proposed at a price tag of $9 Billion in 2017. Considering inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain issues we know this must be far below the actual price tag. I urge you to instead use a portion of these funds to rehabilitate the existing Rikers Island buildings and make much-needed modernization and safety improvements to protect both inmates and officers, address the staffing shortages, provide protective equipment and inmate access to medical care”.