New York mayor backs plan to shut Rikers Island jail complex -NY Times

NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has dropped his objections to closing the city's Rikers Island jail complex after being presented with a special panel's recommendation to phase out the violence-marred facility, the New York Times reported on Friday.

A 27-member panel, which has been studying the matter for more than a year, is recommending a $10.6 billion plan to close the detention hub and replace it with smaller jails in each of the city's five boroughs, the newspaper said, citing a draft of the still-unreleased report.

"The commission believes that the use of Rikers Island must be phased out over the next 10 years and its facilities demolished," the Times quoted the report as saying.

De Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito are expected to address the issue at a news conference on Friday afternoon.

The commission's recommendations, which were initially reported by the New York Daily News, include allowing some inmates to be released under supervision and overhauling the bail system.

Last year, de Blasio told reporters that the idea of closing the jail complex, with some 10,000 inmates who are mostly awaiting trial and therefore presumed innocent, was a "noble concept."

But he had refused to publicly back the idea due to the financial costs involved and length of time it might take to shutter the facility.

After numerous cases of widely reported violence at the complex, including charges that prison guards brutally abused inmates, the idea of closing the facility has gained converts including prison reform advocates and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

By housing inmates across New York City's five boroughs, instead concentrating them on an island in the East River between upper Manhattan and Queens, the commission's report said the city could save money, according to the Times.