A dramatic jail transformation in America’s poorest cities

NY Mayor Eric Adams wants to close Rikers Island, New York’s jail for some 10,000 inmates, in favor of new “community-based” facilities. But keeping the population below 10,000 at Rikers “may not be feasible,” says Professor Robert Menendez of the Urban Studies and Planning department at Loyola University New Orleans.

“People at Rikers Island are doing a great job of managing the prison population. We have the world’s highest homicide rate per capita, and Rikers is extremely well-run. They do a good job, and all the horror stories about inmates supposedly running wild inside there are about stories that could never happen at Rikers Island,” explains Menendez.

In the third quarter of 2018, the overall population of Rikers Island was 9,934. Of that total, 1,365 were being held on criminal or violent charges.

The latest news that a lone inmate, Aden Owens, 42, is on his way to death row in New York for the death of a woman who was allegedly his girlfriend and the mother of his children, suggests that city officials have their hands full managing the remaining inmates at Rikers, despite Adams’ statement.

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