As part of an ongoing effort to improve conditions at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex, officials have announced a plan to move 16- and 17-year-old inmates to a youth facility in the Bronx.
The plan, which is slated to cost approximately $300 million, calls for the Horizon Juvenile Center, which currently holds 14- and 15-year-olds, to take on the older teens typically housed at Rikers Island, the New York Times reported. The plan could take more than four years for the proper approvals and construction to be completed before teens would be moved off the island.
"As someone who spent time on Rikers as a 16-year-old, I firmly believe that the practice of incarcerating hundreds of children on an isolated island, with poor accessibility and far from public view, is a failed model," Glenn Martin, president of JustLeadershipUSA, was quoted by the New York Daily News. Teens in adult facilities were more likely to suffer abuse from other inmates and were 36 times more likely to commit suicide than their peers in juvenile facilities.
Rikers currently houses 188 teens, almost all of whom are awaiting trial, according to The Associated Press, which added that that figure is down from the 337 teens held on the island in 2013.
"When you're a teenager in trouble with the law, it's not too late to get on the right path – and we need to provide the right environment to help that happen," a statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio was quoted by the Daily News.
As part of the plan, the Crossroads Juvenile Center in Bushwick, Brooklyn, will be remodeled to hold the 14- and 15-year-olds who would have previously gone to Horizon, the New York Times added.
The only two states that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-old as adults are North Carolina and New York, according to the AP, which added that in New York, legislative efforts have failed to raise the age of criminal responsibility.