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New York City Plans ‘Sunlight and Space’ Jails for New Era of Corrections

Four jails New York City plans to replace its Rikers Island facility will have cells with natural sunlight, space for programming and a children’s play area, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

In a hearing Wednesday, city officials presented design highlights to the City Planning Commission as a part of the project’s approval process. The new jails, which would be built in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, are a part of a plan by Mayor Bill de Blasio to close the Rikers facilities  by 2026. The city has allocated $8.7 billion for the project.

Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann displayed a rendering of the facilities that showed a large dayroom surrounded by jail cells, all bathed in sunlight. She said inmates would have direct access to outdoor recreation spaces. “Our current facilities are designed for a different era of corrections,” Brann said.

“Modern jails have all of these designs in them, and that is what we are going forward with.” The jails will provide visitors with a more “welcoming” experience, she said. The lobby would have information desks and kiosks, a place to pay bail and an area for children to play while waiting to visit inmates.

The new jails would eliminate the need for visitors to wait in line outside, as is the case when visitors want to enter the Brooklyn Detention Complex, which one proposed jail would replace. The majority of the space in the new facilities would be for programming such as classrooms, a library and a gym. The proposed jails have faced opposition from local residents, with one concern being the proposed sizes of the buildings.

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