From the IBO Blog:
Tough fiscal times have led the Mayor to propose a 20 percent reduction in planned city capital spending. That means less money for affordable housing construction, building new schools, or rehabbing city parks. Because of this, some New Yorkers may be surprised to learn that the Bloomberg Administration is still planning to commit more than $620 million in 2011 through 2015 to the construction of a new jail on Rikers Island, the renovation of jails in Brooklyn and Queens, and the closing of other facilities. What may make this even more surprising is that when the changes are complete, the system will have less capacity than it does now.
While the jail proposal has also been cut back—by nearly $115 million or 16 percent in the May 2011 Capital Commitment Plan compared with the September 2010 plan —some may question the need for it at all. Part of what’s driving the initiative is dilapidated conditions. Some of the structures being used on Rikers were only meant to be temporary. Another reason is to reverse a Giuliani Administration initiative that closed the jails near the borough courthouses and placed all inmates on Rikers Island. That proved to be a costly decision, ratcheting up overtime and other expenses in order to transport inmates to court dates.
As a result, the Department of Correction is going ahead with a jail renovation initiative which includes the construction of a new 1,500 bed jail on Rikers Island and reopening detention facilities in Brooklyn and Queens, in conjunction with reductions in the capacity of a number of other facilities. Because the initiative would remove more beds than are being added from the new construction, the city’s overall jail capacity would be reduced by nearly 3,000 beds.