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.

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UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Aerial view of Rikers Island. (Photo by Todd Maisel/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
A corrections officers walks through the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit at the Rikers Island Correctional facility in New York March 12, 2015. New York City is proposing to reduce violence among inmates at its troubled Rikers Island jail by limiting visitors, adding security cameras and separating rival gangs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
A view from a jail cell in the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit at the Rikers Island Correctional facility in New York March 12, 2015. New York City is proposing to reduce violence among inmates at its troubled Rikers Island jail by limiting visitors, adding security cameras and separating rival gangs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
A view from the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit at the Rikers Island Correctional facility in New York March 12, 2015. New York City is proposing to reduce violence among inmates at its troubled Rikers Island jail by limiting visitors, adding security cameras and separating rival gangs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
QUEENS, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 25: A view of Rikers Island, New York City's jail, is seen from a flight leaving LaGuardia Airport on Christmas morning, December 25, 2016. Most New Yorkers are denied access to the island, but frequently see it when leaving or arriving on flights from adjacent LaGuardia Airport in Queens. (Photo by ANdrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Russell Hernandez, who got $1 million in a settlement, hold letter from Bronx DA thanking him for 'cooperation.' Hernandez, was held at Rikers Island for more than two years without ever being charged with a crime in order to force him to testify against two gang members who had robbed him. (Photo By: Howard Simmons/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Russell Hernandez, who got $1 million in a settlement, hold letter from Bronx DA thanking him for 'cooperation.' Hernandez, was held at Rikers Island for more than two years without ever being charged with a crime in order to force him to testify against two gang members who had robbed him. (Photo By: Howard Simmons/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
A view of buildings at the Rikers Island penitentiary complex where IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in New York on May 17, 2011. The grand jury deciding whether or not to send IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to trial has until May 20th to decide. In the meantime, Strauss-Kahn, accused of attempting to rape a hotel maid, remains incarcerated without bail because a judge deemed him liable to attempt escape to France, which does not extradite citizens to the United States. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 24: Inmates at Rikers Island gather in a circle for a morning meeting on pride and self-esteem. Inmates, who refer to each other as 'teammates,' are in the High Impact Incarceration Program (HIIP)., (Photo by Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
A view of buildings at the Rikers Island penitentiary complex where IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in New York on May 17, 2011. The grand jury deciding whether or not to send IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to trial has until May 20th to decide. In the meantime, Strauss-Kahn, accused of attempting to rape a hotel maid, remains incarcerated without bail because a judge deemed him liable to attempt escape to France, which does not extradite citizens to the United States. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 30: Aerial view of Rikers Island prison. (Photo by Charles Payne/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
An air view of Rikers Island, New York City's main jail complex and the name of the 413.17-acre island on which it sits, in the East River between Queens and the mainland Bronx in New York City, New York, 1955. (Photo by Flying Camera/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 22: Frank Costello (c.) is freed from Rikers Island and with him are his attorneys on his left Morris Shilensky, and his right is Edward Williams. (Photo by Seymour Wally/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 22: Frank Costello flanked by police detective is freed from Rikers Island. (Photo by Seymour Wally/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 25: Prisoners sit handcuffed on ground along hallway after riots at Rikers Island. (Photo by Leonard Jackson/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 04: Rikers Island detainees drill in the courtyard of new 'Sprungs' area where 16 to 18-year-old detainees live and attend school while awaiting trials and sentencing. (Photo by Nicole Bengiveno/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
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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.

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