The Plan to Turn New York’s Most Notorious Jail Into a Renewable Energy Hub Is What Justice Looks Like
People pace the bus stop at Queensboro Plaza on a Saturday before New York City’s covid-19 shelter-in-place order. They are waiting for the Q100 bus, which serves as the only modes of public transportation with a direct route to Rikers Island, the location of New York City’s largest jail complex. Metal containment fences capped with large, looping swaths of barbed wire separate the 413-acre island from the East River, holding approximately 7,000 people who await trial, often unable to pay bail.
As many press and expert reports have described, Rikers’ jails are rife with violence and unsanitary conditions, which is why the city plans to close the facility tentatively in 2026. In October 2019, the New York City Council approved an $8 billion plan to close the jail complex and replace it with four smaller jails. When the council approved the 2020-2021 city budget in summer 2020, it set a plan to push back the jails’ funding timeline by a fiscal year. Capital funds will now be scheduled through 2027, rather than 2026.
What will happen to Rikers Island after the jail complex’s closure is the subject of intense debate, amplified in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality, racist policing practices, and the prison system in the U.S.
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