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Better to have criminals in Rikers Island than on streets

On Thursday, the New York City Council voted to close the detention facilities on Rikers Island and replace them with a borough-based jail system. This new jail system is estimated to be able to only hold half of the population of inmates today, meaning the population of inmates facing felony charges would have to be cut down by about 50% within the next 7 years.

It would be extremely dangerous to try and achieve this goal. About 75% of the city’s inmates have been admitted previously. According to The New York Post, “When one considers (1) the seriousness of the charges most city jail inmates are facing, (2) the level of violence those inmates engage in behind bars and (3) the potential for future crime increases, one thing becomes crystal clear: There is simply no way to cut the average daily jail population — which the city itself has described as “more violent and difficult to manage” — that much more without leaving dangerous criminals on the street, where you can be sure they will continue to diminish the quality of life in their neighborhoods.

According to the most recent data from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, 62 percent of the city’s pretrial jail population is facing violent felony charges; 30 percent are facing other felony charges. Just 8 percent of pretrial detainees are facing misdemeanor charges. The vast majority of these inmates are repeat offenders.

Inhibiting the city’s ability to jail criminals will obviously lead to more criminals on the streets, and, therefore, more crime. The recidivism rates clearly show that these criminals are usually repeat offenders, so removing a barrier that is preventing a criminal from committing a crime is clearly a threat to public safety. The activists that want Rikers shut down are basing part of their argument over how dangerous the prison is, but they overlook the fact that one of the biggest reasons the prison is so dangerous is because the inmates are so dangerous.