STATEMENT FROM BRANDON J. HOLMES, #CLOSERIKERS CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR, ON MISGUIDED AND DEEPLY FLAWED OP-ED FROM THE MANHATTAN INSTITUTE FOR POLICY RESEARCH

“Today, Rafael A. Mangual and reactionary think-tank Manhattan Institute for Policy Research released one of the most vile, flawed, and troubling opinion columns that has been written about the very real and very brutal hell that is Rikers Island. This piece can and should be deconstructed, piece-by-piece, in order to expose the inability or unwillingness of the Manhattan Institute to comprehend the #CLOSErikers movement, the criminal justice system, or the consequences that the system has had on communities throughout the city.

“First, we know the incarcerated population in city jails can be cut to 5,000 – or less –because of the reductions that have already occurred. We are not far removed from a time in which over 20,000 men and women were caged on Torture Island, and we are in the midst of a decarceration effort that has been fueled by advocates who have been victims of Rikers’ relentless hostility. Also, volumes of research have shown that there is no measurable causal relationship between incarceration and crime. In fact, what has been proven time and again in communities across this country is that reducing incarcerated populations correlates directly with reductions in incidents of crime.

“New York City is a prime example of this. The ‘unparalleled’ crime decline that the Manhattan Institute discusses is occurring while every single population at Rikers (except for alleged technical parole violators) is drastically decreasing. This long-overdue decarceration also means, or should mean, a significant increase in the investments that elected officials make in communities that have been harmed by the justice system.

“That harm does not stop when someone is incarcerated. In fact, as Mangual points out, that harm is, in many ways, exacerbated by insidious institutions like Rikers. But it’s hard to expect otherwise when ‘Corrections’ Officers outnumber detainees and operate with a martial law mindset, convinced that their own might is the antidote to the culture of evil that they perpetuate on a daily basis. And beyond being unjustifiable on moral grounds, there is nothing about the population at Rikers that could warrant an armed response.

“In all of this, Mangual appeals to the city’s worst instincts by unreservedly leveraging the dog-whistle, fear-mongering tactics of a ‘tough-on-crime’ era that continues to cast an abhorrent shadow on the modern, informed, values-driven efforts moving us away from a shameful legacy of mass incarceration and mass criminalization. He arrives at a conclusion based not on any of the evidence he cites but instead on offensive and outdated misperceptions of the people who are trapped in the criminal justice system.

“We should be at a point where columns like the one put forward by the Manhattan Institute are not given serious consideration by established media outlets. But the fact that we live in a time when malicious and distorted opinions about Rikers still exist is the reason that the #CLOSErikers campaign presses forward with more urgency, force, and tenacity than ever before. We will not stop until Torture Island is closed for good and criminal justice in New York City is redefined and transformed forever.”

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