Keep fighting the jail plan - Queens Chronicle: Editorials

Keep fighting the jail plan

Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019 10:30 am

The news out of the City Planning Commission was disappointing but not unexpected: The panel voted 9-3 to approve the misguided plan to close the jails on Rikers Island and replace them with new lockups in four of the five boroughs, including one at the site of the old Queens House of Detention in Kew Gardens.

Long ago, the powers that be in our fair city made the logical conclusion that the best place to house dangerous criminals, and others charged with infractions yet to be proven in court, is an island from which there could be little chance of escape. Today, our part-time mayor — the man who showed up to City Hall for all of seven hours in the entire month of May — and his cohort think it’s more important to keep these miscreants closer to home, and to put them in facilities with retail for the public on the ground floor.

Don’t forget that the claims made by those who want Rikers closed about who is housed there are mostly false. As Queens Assistant District Attorney James Quinn will tell any civic group that listens, “These are not nonviolent defendants being held on Rikers Island. They are not turnstile jumpers. They are not misdemeanor marijuana defendants. They are not prostitutes.”

More than 90 percent of Queens detainees held there because they can’t make bail are facing felony charges. Yet the “Close Rikers” crowd wants to free nearly half the people held in city jails — at least — and the replacement facilities that are planned won’t be able to hold any more than the remainder. There are even those who say Rikers should be closed and not replaced. What? A city with no jails? Dream on. Not happening.

Despite the CPC vote, all is not lost — yet. The City Council still has to approve the plan for it to go forward. We hope you’ll join us in calling on the members to vote no. Rikers needs reform, not replacement.