Since 1992 New York City has been using a custom-built five-story barge docked in the Bronx as an intake center for its network of jails. Intended as a temporary solution to overcrowding in the city’s main facilities on Rikers Island, it holds up to 800 people.
Conditions on the barge have long been a focus for those advocating reform of New York’s use and management of incarceration. A former prisoner described it as “dark and cramped and sweaty” to a New York Times reporter in 2019.
Crowding on the barge contributed to the deaths of two detainees in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, according to the city agency that runs the jails. Another man died in custody at Rikers.
In 2019, the New York City Council approved a $8.7 billion plan to replace the barge as well as facilities on Rikers Island by 2026.