June 30, 2017

CONTACT: Emily NaPier, Dir. of Public Affairs

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#CLOSErikers Campaign Confronts Mayor at Park Slope YMCA to Demand a Stronger Plan and Shorter Timeline for Shuttering the Jail Complex

One week after the release of the “Roadmap to Closing Rikers Island,” dozens gather to show the Mayor what is missing from the plan


June 30, 2017, New York, NY – Members and supporters of the #CLOSErikers campaign confronted Mayor Bill de Blasio at his gym this morning to demand a stronger plan that includes community input and a shorter timeline for shuttering Rikers Island.  Several members were able to gain access inside the Park Slope YMCA where they approached the Mayor while he was working out.

The action comes one week after the Mayor released, “Smaller, Safer, Fairer: A Roadmap to Closing Rikers Island.”  Members of the #CLOSErikers campaign conducted an extensive review of the document, comparing it to their own recommendations and those of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, commonly known as the Lippman Commission.  The Lippman Commission, chaired by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and comprised of two dozen experts, released its report in early April after a yearlong process of research, data analysis, and community input.

Both reports propose a ten year timeline for closing the jail complex, which the #CLOSErikers campaign insists is too long.  “We need communities to heal from the trauma of this deplorable place and our families to be together,” said Samantha Johnson, a member of the #CLOSErikers campaign.  “This goal of ten years is too much time wasted.  We need Rikers closed now and for good.  We will continue to fight for the right to fix our communities and will continue to advocate for those who cannot.”

Darren Mack, another member of the campaign, was inside the YMCA today and confronted Mayor de Blasio while he was working out.  “The voices of people directly impacted by Rikers and our allies brought us to this point and it must be those same voices at the table discussing any plan to reach the finish line,” said Mack.  “We want transparency.  We want inclusion.  Anything less than that is not progressive.  A ten year plan is not progressive.  This is a fundamental issue of justice here, and it would be fundamentally wrong to delay it that long.”

Mack attempted to hand Mayor de Blasio a copy of the Lippman report, an interaction captured in this video.  The report was flagged with several post-it notes representing recommendations made by the Lippman Commission and supported by the #CLOSErikers campaign that are missing from the Mayor’s plan.  For example, the Mayor’s plan does not include any commitment to police reform or city-level efforts to decriminalize some offenses or reform sentencing practices.

“What is missing from the Mayor’s plan says more about his priorities than what is included,” said Theodore A. Moore, Lead Organizer at JustLeadershipUSA which spearheads the #CLOSErikers campaign.  “Perhaps the most stunning omission is the failure to even mention racial disparities, let alone propose a plan to address them.  Nearly 90 percent of the people suffering on Rikers are Black or Latino, despite making up only 56 percent of New York City’s population.  The Mayor has failed to address this stark injustice and failed to include communities of color and people most harmed by Rikers in his plan for closing the jail complex.”

A #CLOSErikers member identified as Anna called into the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC last week to ask Mayor de Blasio exactly how he plans to incorporate people like her – a mother whose son languished at Rikers for six years waiting for his case to be processed – into the plan to shutter the Island once and for all.  “I would like to know how he will listen and incorporate our experiences because I’m not the only one,” Anna said.  It has impacted my life a lot, and my son’s life – six years being punished on a torture island waiting for trial.  How is he going to take into consideration our suffering?”  The Mayor discussed the “Roadmap” which was released the day of the show, but did not answer Anna’s question.

Representatives from the more than 150 partner organizations that have endorsed the #CLOSErikers campaign were also present at the action at the YMCA.  “We should be ashamed every day that Rikers is allowed to exist in New York City, and the Mayor should be doing everything in his power to close that awful place as soon as possible,” said Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director of VOCAL-NY.  “Plans and policies for reducing the City’s jail population and closing Rikers already exist.  What we need now is the political will and a swift timeline to enact change.”

In addition to members being inside the YMCA confronting the Mayor, they were also waiting for him outside the gym as he left.  They held signs reading, “10 Years Sucks,” “Torture Island is in Our Backyard,” and “Build Communities.”  Photos from inside and outside of the gym can be seen here.

About the #CLOSErikers campaign:

The #CLOSErikers campaign was formed in 2016 to break the political gridlock and achieve real solutions that are guided by directly impacted communities.  Led by JustLeadershipUSA, in partnership with the Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice, the #CLOSErikers campaign includes community groups, researchers, faith and human rights leaders, criminal justice experts, health and housing service providers, advocacy and legal groups and more.  Through the campaign, over 150 diverse organizations across New York City have joined together to demand the speedy closure of Rikers.  By closing Rikers, New York City can focus on healing and rebuilding the communities where Rikers has brought suffering.  The campaign to #CLOSErikers is calling for New Yorkers to boldly reimagine the city’s failed criminal justice system and become a national leader in ending mass incarceration.