Activists who want Rikers closed rallied outside of City Hall, where Department of Correction leadership testified to the council on its proposed budget.

“We’re here because Mayor Adams proposed a budget which is a recipe for keeping Rikers open by maintaining the Department of Correction’s bloated budget,” said Darren Mack, co-director, Freedom Agenda at the Urban Justice Center.

What You Need To Know

  • Over last four years, correction staff headcount decreased by nearly 3,500 uniformed employees

  • The city estimates that building new borough jails to replace Rikers would cost $15.5 billion — more than the $8.7 billion in the Correction Department's budget 

  • Under law, Rikers must close by the summer of 2027

Correction Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie described her staffing issues in her opening testimony.

“In the last four years, we’ve attritted approximately 3,400 staff members, uniformed staff members and we’re working to actively deploy our staff to ensure they are deployed on posts that are needed within the jails,” she said.

Councilmembers got few new details on the delayed efforts to build new jails in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan that would allow Rikers to close by summer of 2027 — as required by law.

“Can you explain why there are virtually no changes in the capital commitment plan when we know the borough based jails projects are delayed by over two years and the administration has estimated substantial increases in cost, due to the increased cost in labor and steel?” asked Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.

The 10-year construction budget for new borough jails is $8.7 billion — the city estimates it’ll ultimately cost $15.5 billion —- additional costs a City Hall official said will be funded through the budget process.

All the while, the department manages crumbling facilities it can’t fix, with 80% of its construction budget tied to new borough jails.

“We have old jails and we need to make repairs to those jails, but we are also in a place where we can’t utilize capital funding to do that,” Maginley-Liddie said.

The correction official overseeing the borough jail program said the agency is working with the city’s Department of Design and Construction to keep the borough jails program on track.

“We have established an internal team, a transition team to ensure a seamless transition into our new facilities,” Alex Maldonado, who oversees borough-based jail program at DOC, said.

Another aspect to closing Rikers — bringing down the jail population, particularly those serving a city sentence — that is, a year or less on the island.

“Over these two years, we’ve seen the city-sentenced population triple,” Councilman Lincoln Restler of Brooklyn said. “This is the one thing that you can directly control in terms of the population at Rikers.”