City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito delivered her second State of the City address on Thursday, making several criminal justice proposals, including exploring whether the city can shut down its massive jail complex on Rikers Island. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
"Rikers Island has come to represent our worst tendencies and our biggest failures," Mark-Viverito said at Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx.
The speaker of the City Council joined a growing chorus Thursday, saying that the city should explore policies to shrink the inmate population at Rikers Island.
The call was part of her second State of the City address. She said she wants the population to decrease so much that the sprawling jail complex could potentially close.
"We must explore how we can get the population of Rikers to be so small that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality," Mark-Viverito said.
To do that, Mark-Viverito is forming a commission to examine all of the criminal justice system, including whether inmates on Rikers could be transitioned to smaller borough jails.
Jonathan Lippman, the state's former chief justice who just retired last year, will head up the effort.
"See what we can get the population to at Rikers, and then figure out what its long-term future is," Lippman said. "Clearly, Rikers has been the subject of a great deal of negative attention. We want to take an independent look at it."
To drive the point home, the speaker invoked the story of Kalief Browder, a young man who committed suicide last year after spending years in solitary confinement on Rikers without ever being charged with a crime.
His mother was in the audience. She too told us that Rikers should be shut down.
"He may have hung himself, but it was the system that hung him," said Venida Browder, the mother of Kalief.
The speaker's office did not give NY1 a timeline for how long the commission would work. They say it will take as long as necessary.
The correction officers union is already asking for a seat at the table.
"What do you do with Rikers when you close it? Where do you put 10,000, 15,000 individuals that have been accused of a crime?" said Norman Seabrook, the president of the Correction Officer's Benevolent Association. "Do you take them and you put them next to Gracie Mansion?"