by AIA New York
Over the last few years, New York City has sought to significantly change its criminal justice system. After the release of the A More Just New York City report in 2017, the city embarked on the replacement of Rikers Island with a series of borough-based jails. These jails are intended to be better designed and located than Rikers, which is currently dilapidated and difficult to access. As for Rikers Island itself, there have been numerous proposals, most notably creating a green energy hub on the island.
Nevertheless, progress to close Rikers has been slow, and the situation has further deteriorated. Violence in the jail has skyrocketed, with 18 detainees dying in custody or shortly after release so far this year. The city has resisted publicly releasing information on the deaths, making independent analysis of the violence difficult. Meanwhile, harmful carceral practices like solitary confinement remain in use.
In response, criminal justice reform advocates have been calling for Rikers to be placed under receivership, where an independent third-party receiver would be given federal authority to operate the jail. While there has been a federal monitor in place on Rikers since 2015, the monitor lacks the authority to run the facility as a receiver would have. Earlier this month, however, advocates for a receiver faced a defeat in court, giving the city greater time to implement reforms.
AIA New York has long sought to improve the design of the city’s justice facilities, including by recommending that members stop designing inhumane justice facilities. To explore policies about what happens to those incarcerated after their release, AIANY is hosting its Designing for Post-Incarceration conference on Friday, December 16. Sign-up is free and open to the public.