“The de Blasio Administration’s ‘plan’ to decarcerate to 5,000 people in order to close Rikers facilities by 2027 makes it clear that the Mayor remains uninterested in closure in less than 10 years. This is wholly unacceptable given that there is an achievable faster route to close Rikers, and that the longer it stays open, the longer people will be subjected to environmental toxins and a culture of violence at the rate of $270,876 per person per year, all paid for by New Yorkers’ taxes. Mayor de Blasio has promised closure – yet by the 2027 timeline, his proposal would be handed off to the next unknown administration, which is not guaranteed to see Rikers closed. As directly impacted people and advocates, we demand the most expansive decarceration strategies possible to end mass criminalization of New Yorkers and #CLOSErikers.
Although the City plans to close Rikers when its population reaches 5,000, while creating 6,000 beds in borough-based facilities, JustLeadershipUSA and its partners demand further decarceration. Our communities suffer exponential trauma every day that Rikers remains open and racially unjust criminalization and jailing policies remain intact. This suffering is enabled by both Mayor de Blasio’s and Governor Cuomo’s lack of action.
The City is correct in recognizing the need for state action, a long-time #CLOSErikers demand. JustLeadershipUSA and #CLOSErikers leaders have lobbied at the state-level for just pretrial laws since 2016. In 2017 we launched the #FREEnewyork campaign in coalition with directly impacted people and grassroots organizations. Our demands are for overhaul of New York’s pretrial system of bail (ending money bail for all people and all charges), discovery, and speedy trial laws while ensuring that policy changes and jail closures are not accompanied by use of risk assessment tools or replaced by mass supervision, especially that which would invite mass electronic monitoring.
We demand City and State-level transformation. In our analysis, New York City is part of the problem, and certainly not off the hook. At the City level, programs diverting people away from the criminal legal system at the point of arrest must be increased and reach all at-risk populations leaving no one behind. There is no reason for kids, or people suffering from a range of mental health conditions or anyone with drug-related charges to be on Rikers today or at any facility managed by the DOC. Medical, mental health, and dependency treatment, including prenatal and maternity care as well as gender-affirming treatment for transgender and gender non-conforming people, must happen outside the system. Programs for young people, homeless people and veterans must also happen outside of the system.
We demand that Mayor de Blasio end the policy of broken windows policing, as it harms communities and contributes to unnecessary confinement of people on Rikers over petty infractions that have virtually been decriminalized in white communities. The City must become invested in ending socially constructed crimes of poverty and in severely reducing its over-bloated NYPD and COBA budgets. #CLOSErikers demands include: ending broken windows policing, dismantling NYPD gang databases, expanding alternatives to incarceration, and investing money saved by decarceration to #buildCOMMUNITIES. The Administration must also meet a set of the Lippman Commission’s recommendations to decriminalize four offenses: fare evasion (NYPD’s second-most-common arrest), marijuana possession, sex work, and gravity knife possession. Instead, Mayor de Blasio continues to enforce fare evasion and marijuana policies that explicitly target people on parole or probation in direct opposition of the goal of closing Rikers.
The ten year timeline means at least $10 billion of taxpayers’ money wasted on a failed jail system and more than 400,000 New Yorkers going to Rikers. New Yorkers will continue to demand that Mayor de Blasio #CLOSErikers NOW and end the criminalization of Black people and communities of color, immigrants, and poor people that feeds New York City’s jail crisis.”