More than 200 people currently detained in Rikers Island’s notorious women’s facility will be transferred to state-run prisons in Westchester County, the latest effort aimed at reducing the population at the crisis-ridden jail.
Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the joint state-and-city agreement on Wednesday to move “nearly all of women- and trans-identified individuals” off the island beginning next week.
A total of 230 detainees held on Rikers Island’s Rose M. Singer Center will be transferred to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and the Taconic Correctional Facility, roughly 40 miles north of New York City.
The move will be temporary, according to Hochul, and will “help ease staffing concerns, capacity restraints, and improve safety for several hundred detainees.” It’s unclear if the Rose M. Singer Center will reopen.
Those held inside the women’s jail have long reported filthy conditions, a lack of medical resources, and pervasive abuse at the hands of guards. In 2017, the city settled a $1.2 million lawsuit brought by two women who said they were repeatedly raped and abused by correction officers at the jail, known as Rosie’s.
In a statement, the Women’s Community Justice Association, which has led the campaign to shutter the women’s jail, praised the decision, while calling on the city to expedite the release of female detainees who can serve alternatives to incarceration.
“This has been a place of incredible trauma for our mothers, daughters and sisters, most of whom are themselves victims of abuse,” said the group’s executive director, Sharon White-Harrigan. “Today the healing begins.”
The jail, which opened in 1988, features a 25-bed nursery and, more recently, added a specialized center for transgender women. In 2019, Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old transgender woman being held on $500 bail for prostitution and low level drug possession, was found dead inside a solitary unit within the housing area. The city paid Polanco’s family $5.9 million in a settlement.
According to Hochul, any individuals currently receiving hormone replacement therapy at Rikers will have access to the treatment at the Westchester facilities.
The Department of Correction will provide twice-daily transportation to the facility for family members and loved ones of detainees, with bus pickup locations in every borough but Staten Island, according to a press release.
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