Rikers Island, the infamous and isolated jail complex located off the coastline of New York City, is officially being shut down. And in its place is the possibility of new community jails that are designed, specifically, for better treatment of inmates.
In conjunction with closing Riker’s 10 jails, an independent commission last year recommended the city open smaller facilities — called “justice hubs” — that would be located next to local courts and integrated into existing neighborhoods. The vision for this modern system of jails includes built-in amenities that would be shared with local residents (think exercise facilities, community gardens and art studios).
“Our understanding about design and incarceration has evolved significantly since the jails on Rikers Island were built,” says Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “Light, sound and the arrangement of space are important in creating a safer, calmer environment for the people residing and working there.”
Still, officials are pushing for jails that could address community needs, similar to a public library’s social outreach programs, that would help reduce the stigma of incarceration while building stronger, healthier communities.
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