With controversy continuing to surround Rikers Island, the head of the city’s correction department is casting doubt on whether the troubled jail complex will be able to be closed in five years as planned.

Three years ago, the City Council passed a plan to shut down Rikers Island and open new jails across the city.

As part of that plan, the city must reduce its jail population to 3,300 by 2027, when Rikers is slated to close.

There are now more than 5,900 detainees in city jails — a population that has been on the rise over the past year.

What You Need To Know

  • Rikers Island is supposed to close in 2027 according to city law

  • A smaller jail population is supposed to be housed in jail facilities in four of the five boroughs

  • But the jail population now is increasing and the correction commissioner is questioning whether the city can meet its goal

And on Tuesday, the head of the city’s correction department cast real doubt on whether the city will meet its goal.

“I mean, we have done internally population forecasts that we think the population in 2024 could be over 7000,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina at a City Council hearing. “But I don’t see them being at 3,300 in less than four years if nothing else changes with the administration and adjudication of the administration of justice at the court levels.”

Molina acknowledged the city is legally obligated to shut down the city’s troubled jail complex. At the same time, it will be tough to do that if the jail population does not shrink before.

“What I am telling you is in 2027, we will not be at 3300,” Molina said.

“We can get to 3,300 if we invest in justice involved supportive housing, if we invest in alternatives to incarceration, if we invest in population review teams, if we invest in therapeutic beds,” said Brooklyn Councilmember Lincoln Restler.

The comments came two days after the latest death on Rikers Island. Edgardo Mejias died on Sunday. His death is under investigation. Narcan was used at the time, sources told NY1.

Molina said his officers responded swiftly when Mejias appeared to be in medical distress.

“They came to his medical aid within seconds of being alerted that he was in some level of medical distress and took action to bring that individual, to bring Mr. Mejias, to the main clinic to receive medical services and unfortunately Mr. Mejias passed away,” the commissioner said.

He was the 19th person in custody or recently released from custody to die this year.