In a major step toward the closing of Rikers Island, the New York City Department of Correction transferred over the oldest Rikers correctional facility to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the agencies announced this week.
The handing over of the James A. Thomas Center, named after DOC’s first Black warden, marks the first time the DOC has transferred over a Rikers facility to DCAS, which now owns the building.
This month’s transfer, and the others to follow, are some of the earliest steps in the city’s transition into its borough-based jails program and the eventual closure of Rikers Island as a jail facility.
“This is a major milestone in the historic plan to close Rikers Island and create safer, fairer, and more modern borough-based jails,” DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said in a statement. "Being able to close Rikers and create borough-based facilities is a natural result of our city's multifaceted efforts to reduce its jail population and end the era of mass incarceration.”
The James A. Thomas Center, which closed in 2021, was built in 1933 and was the island’s first permanent jail.
Now that it has been transferred, DCAS and the Rikers Island Advisory Committee will plan a sustainable use for the facility, as part of the city’s Renewable Rikers Act. Under the law, the island could become home to several renewable energy sites if studies conducted in the coming years prove it to be feasible.
"Today marks a historic occasion for ending mass incarceration in our city and re-imagining Rikers Island," said Lisette Camilo, the commissioner of DCAS. "DCAS is eager to do its part to build a brighter future by transforming Rikers Island into a hub for sustainability."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called closing Rikers Island a “moral imperative,” spearheaded the borough-based jails program, which was approved by the City Council in 2017.
“Transferring these facilities from DOC to DCAS brings our plan to create a smaller, safer, and more humane jail system even closer to reality,” de Blasio said.
This is really happening. And with the horrendous bail reform law, they did this entirely on purpose at the expense of the citizenry and society. Beware of anyone who utters the word "re-imagine"