Adams presses to Tweak Criminal Justice Laws as Rikers Inmate Population Grows

Police Line on the Crime Scene

With the Rikers Island inmate population up nearly 8 percent for the year, the Adams administration is continuing to meet with local communities to discuss the possible closing of the island jail and establishment of four borough-based jails. Plus, they are continuing to push for rollbacks of criminal justice and bail reforms in Albany.

Coupled with the rise in the Rikers population, crime is up 47 percent and arrests are up nearly 9 percent over the first two months of this year compared to last year, according to NYPD statistics. 

The plan to replace the jails on Rikers Island with four borough based facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx – proposed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio – was passed by the City Council in 2019. While Adams has hedged on whether they’d implement the full plan as it was originally envisioned, his spokesman Fabien Levy said some talks have already got underway during the previous administration.

“Before the new administration took over, the city began to move forward with plans for a Manhattan Detention Complex site as part of its commitment to closing the jails on Rikers Island by 2027,” Levy said. “As supported by groups across the city, four new, smaller, more modern facilities close to courts and communities were to be built across the boroughs. The city will continue to meet with communities, hear their concerns, and incorporate their feedback into the on-going process.”

According to reporting from the New York Post, Adams is facing backlash from community activists over the plan to close Rikers. An activist group opposed to the Queens jail – to be built in Kew Gardens – called the Community Preservation Coalition, is currently engaged in a text and phone campaign to convince the mayor and City Council to scrap the plan and instead modernize the Rikers facilities.

Levy also made it clear that taking action to reduce crime is top of mind for the Adams administration.

“The mayor has been clear that public safety is his top priority, but this is not just his agenda, but New York City’s agenda,” Levy said. “Three-in-four city residents want action on crime, so we are taking action to do that. It’s time we all work together to keep New Yorkers safe.”

According to city hall sources the Adams administration is asking for very targeted changes in some laws to ensure New York is safe.

“We want to make sure judges can take into account if someone is dangerous before letting them go back to the street. It’s a common sense ask that 49 states and the federal government already use,” said a city hall source. “The data is clear – More dangerous people are out on the streets committing crimes because judges can’t keep them behind bars.”

Another targeted legislative tweak the administration is looking at is the 2017 Raise the Age law in which the state raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years of age. The administration is seeking changes so that those under 18 involved in gun arrests must cooperate with authorities or face criminal court.

As a result of Raise the Age, those under 18 arrested for gun-related incidents in 2021 quadrupled from 2019, the source said.