State to transfer nearly all Rikers Island female and transgender inmates to Westchester facilities
Nearly all female and transgender inmates at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex will be temporarily transferred to two state-run facilities in northern Westchester next week.
Beginning next week, about 230 inmates will be moved to the state-run Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and Taconic Correctional Facility, Gov. Kathy Hochul said. The city said it will provide daily bus service for visitors to the facilities, which are located next to each other about 33 miles north of Rikers Island.
Officials say the move officials touted will relieve strain on the city's failing jails but that advocates slammed as a "rushed, ill-conceived" plan that will deprive inmates of services and support.
One woman, whose transgender sister died in Rikers in 2019 while in solitary confinement, tells News 12 this doesn't do enough to fix the actual issues inside the facility. "These are humans, these are not animals. You can't move them from one cage to the next and think it's going to solve the problem because it's not," says Melania Brown, prison reform activist.
Hochul's administration has been increasingly involved in trying to help solve what advocates have described as a “humanitarian crisis” at the city's jails, which have been plagued by staggering violence, self-harm, crippling staff absences and the deaths this year of at least 12 inmates.
An additional 240 inmates were released after Hochul signed a law, known as the Less is More Act, limiting incarceration for certain parole violations. The governor has also expanded the use of virtual court appearances in an effort to free up correctional officers from having to take inmates to and from courthouses.
As of Oct. 1, the city’s jail population was 5,588, down from more than 6,000 inmates in mid-September. In recent years, staffing in the city’s jails has plummeted from 10,862 jail guards in the 2017 fiscal year to 8,388 in 2021.
AP wires were used in this report