June 23, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
The number of detainees that the city plans to house at the proposed Kew Gardens jail facility has dropped—with the mayor’s office now saying the complex will be built for 1,150 prisoners.
The proposed Kew Gardens facility, one of four jails to be built across the city so the mayor can shut down Rikers Island by 2026, was originally going to have 1,437 cells. The number has dropped, stemming from the city’s recent projections that there will be fewer people to incarcerate in years to come.
The original plan to build four borough-based jails—one in Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn—was based on the city’s projections that the jail population would decline from about 9,400 when the plan was being formed in 2017 to about 5,000 by 2027, when the new facilities would open.
The plan, which is now going through the public review process, is based on the four proposed jail sites each housing 1,437 detainees—with 5,750 cells in total. The city builds 15 percent more cells than the population it projects, in case cells need repairs and other factors.
However, the city now projects the number of detainees by 2026 will be about 4,000—and therefore each facility will only need 1,150 cells for a total of 4,600 cells.
Alacia Lauer, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, said that the mayor’s office hasn’t determined what the reduced population will mean in terms of the size of the proposed 27-story Kew Gardens structure.
She said that the city is very aware the public wants smaller jails and is working toward that end. However, she said any reductions can’t compromise inmate recreational space, classrooms and other items.
The new prison at Kew Gardens would replace the Queens House of Detention at 126-02 82nd Ave., which was decommissioned in 2002. The detention facility, which now serves as a holding pen for court appearances and a training center for correctional officers, once held more than 300 inmates.