Campaign Demands New York City Invest in Communities Most Impacted by the Jail Crisis Focusing Investments Outside of the Criminal Legal System
New York, N.Y. (January 21, 2019) The #CLOSErikers campaign unveiled its #buildCOMMUNITIES platform on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. The #buildCOMMUNITIES platform includes a list of demands for justice reinvestment in the community, focusing investments outside of the criminal legal system. The #buildCOMMUNITIES platform was launched and celebrated with a free community breakfast at the Bronx River Community Center in the spirit of the Black Panthers and Young Lords’ community breakfast programs.
Drawing on a series of #buildCOMMUNITIES forums held last summer and the work and vision of over 60 partners and advisors from more than 30 partner organizations and groups, along with more than 200 individuals representing families and communities impacted by incarceration — these demands are tied to a vision of shifting funds from mass incarceration to investments that will build communities. In order to redress the harms caused by incarceration and community disinvestment, the #buildCOMMUNITIES platform aims to provide a roadmap for New York City to make a bold shift from the status quo to a city that lives the values of equity and justice.
The #buildCOMMUNITIES platform is a deep dive into not only the demands for community improvement, but also includes analyses of what is currently working and suggestions for implementation.
The demands included fall in the following categories:
- Public Health – to invest in the well-being of communities to address ill health exacerbated by systemic racism, poverty, discrimination, criminalization, and gentrification.
- Housing – to invest in safe, stable and dignified housing as a human right for all New Yorkers.
- Employment and Economic Development – to invest in programs that support people to achieve economic independence and stability, especially for the people who have been most excluded from opportunities to generate income and build wealth.
- Education and Schools – to invest in education and schools as spaces for students, families, and the broader community to access education for success and for liberation, to connect to the resources they need, and as places where restorative justice is practiced.
- Community Programs and Services – support and expand resources that everyone can access in their communities, which support people of all backgrounds to relax, learn, thrive, and lead.
- Conflict Transformation and Alternative Accountability – support communities to manage conflict so that it does not escalate to harm, and when harm has happened, to intervene with models that focus on restoration rather than punitive systems.
- Structure of Investments – restructure the methods by which funds are distributed in order to support grassroots groups and avoid replicating systems of oppression.
The full #buildCOMMUNITIES platform written by the #CLOSErikers campaign in collaboration with community partners, can be found at: bit.ly/buildCOMMUNITIES
Participants & leaders, said the following of the #buildCOMMUNITIES platform launch:
“Community safety does not come from police or incarceration, which often relies on race and poverty as metrics for guilt. Instead, community safety comes from sustained and collaborative investments in the things that our neighborhoods truly need. The #buildCOMMUNITIES platform aims to redirect the resources that are currently used to lock us up, to build a community that has the resources to invest in each of its residents.” – Vidal Guzman, #CLOSErikers Community Organizer
“We deserve better than our elected leaders investing money in jails and prisons. People that have been through traumatic experiences – whether they have caused harm, or suffered harm, must have access to restoration and healing. We need to fund more restorative practices; restorative justice circles represent true justice – what we have now is just criminal punishment.” –Steven Mangual, host of On the Count radio show, JLUSA Leading with Conviction alumnus, and member of #CLOSErikers and #FREEnewyork campaigns
“I’ve seen my community ravaged by mass incarceration. No one comes back the same from a cage. Locking people up only locks up their potential, it locks up their future, and it locks up their entire community. Instead of putting money into cages, let’s stand together as one people to invest in the resources our community really needs to be healthy and safe. That’s what the #buildCOMMUNITIES platform is all about.” -Marilyn Reyes, Co-Chair, Peer Network of New York and member of New York Harm Reduction Educators
Drive Change was honored to host the subcommittee on Employment and Economic Development and we plan to continue to work with JustLeadership and other peer organizations to build a more economically equitable New York. Economic development is an essential component of the #buildCOMMUNITIES approach to comprehensive criminal justice re-imagination: money/resources can generate much need stability for impacted individuals and their families; further, economic growth and independence is connected to a person’s sense of self worth and contribution to society. Drive Change is proud to contribute to a strategy for justice that rethinks current capitalist structures and invests in creative models that give workers power and control over their lives. – Jordyn Lexton, Executive Director, Drive Change
“NYLPI is proud to work with all of our partners in the Close Rikers coalition, and pleased that the Environmental Justice, Health and Wellness Subcommittee’s recommendations are central to our #buildCOMMUNITIES platform. All of our recommendations and demands are premised on the fact that the City has the resources and ability to invest in our people, environment and well being now– what we are simply looking for is the will to do so.” – Melissa Iachan, Senior Staff Attorney in the Environmental Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
From Punishment to Public Health recognizes the importance of making strategic investments in community-based behavioral health services as a core element of reducing incarceration and pursuing social and racial equity in New York City. The public conversations around closing Rikers Island must include robust inquiries into how we can provide competent health, mental health and substance use services to the most vulnerable members of our community without resorting to locking them in cages. Through its #buildCOMMUNITIES platform, JustLeadershipUSA is helping to construct a vision of a post-Rikers New York City that integrates public health and public safety approaches and outcomes, and holds us all accountable to both. – Jeffrey Coots, Director, From Punishment to Public Health initiative, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
At The Commons, building community is a key focus of the work we do to create a more equitable Upper West Side. As the host of the Youth, Families & Recreational Services subcommittee, we collaborated with campaign members to address how the City can best reinvest the funds saved from closing Rikers. We hope to see the investment once made in law enforcement reallocated toward the creation and support of community-centric resources and solutions. We look forward to continuing the fight to close Rikers and are fully invested in the call to build communities. – Ashley Viruet, Director of Client Advocacy, West Side Commons
We at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, find it not only imperative to close Rikers and repair the harms caused, but also necessary to redistribute the funds and invigorate efforts to further build our communities. Rikers is a stain on the City of New York. It is a broken and unethical facility that offers no solutions. #buildCOMMUNITIES is a platform on which to not only comprehend the dynamic ways people and organizations are positively impacting our world but also a means of advancing the vision behind their efforts. It is not enough to close a deplorable, immoral and unjust institution; though closing Rikers is a must. We need to rebuild, fortify, and nurture the communities that welcome those most harmed by our world. We must embrace a new way forward. – Khary Lazarre-White, Executive Director & Co-Founder, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol
Led by directly impacted communities an in partnership with more than 150 organizations, the #CLOSErikers campaign fights to close the Rikers jail complex and #buildCOMMUNITIES.