FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2017
CONTACT: Emily NaPier, Dir. of Public Affairs
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#CLOSErikers Campaign Holds Major Rally to Demand City Move Forward Immediately with Clear Plans to Close Rikers Island
One year after public launch of Campaign, and weeks after Mayor Bill de Blasio announces his support to close Rikers, hundreds gather to declare the proposed ten-year timeline is too long
New York, NY – Hundreds of members of the #CLOSErikers campaign gathered today at City Hall to demand Mayor Bill de Blasio take immediate action on his commitment to close Rikers Island. Advocates declared the Mayor’s proposed ten-year timeline to close Rikers is too long. They demanded the Mayor appoint someone to lead a speedy process of closing the facility, put forward a serious plan for closure, and immediately act on criminal justice reforms to reduce the Rikers population.
One year ago, the #CLOSErikers campaign held its public launch on the steps of City Hall to call on Mayor de Blasio to close the notorious Rikers Island Jail Complex. Last month, after years of insisting that it was impossible, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that closing Rikers is now the official policy of New York City. After a year of relentless advocacy, #CLOSErikers members celebrated the campaign’s central role in changing the Mayor’s position.
The #CLOSErikers campaign is urging public officials to prioritize reducing the number of people detained on Rikers and quickly shutter the jail complex once and for all. Earlier this month, the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform – known as the Lippman Commission — released a sweeping report outlining a comprehensive set of recommendations at the city and state level for closing Rikers. The campaign called on the Mayor, City Council, Governor Cuomo, and the state legislature to take up the report and act quickly to make closing Rikers a reality.
“Mayor de Blasio should be applauded for joining the countless New Yorkers who have been demanding the closure of Rikers Island,” said Glenn E. Martin, a leader in the #CLOSErikers campaign and President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA. “However, in order to ensure that his words amount to more than an empty election-year promise, the #CLOSErikers Campaign is back at City Hall today, one year after launching on these steps, to remind Mayor de Blasio that national progressive leaders don’t spend ten years closing down torture islands. They act swiftly and decisively, in order to save lives. The #CLOSErikers campaign stands prepared to support the Mayor, once he shares a viable plan for closure. But with 63,000 admissions at Rikers annually, another decade translates to almost 600,000 potential Kalief Browders. That fact is unacceptable to the communities most harmed by Rikers.”
Advocates urged the New York City Council to hold a series of public hearings on the recommendations from the Lippman Commission’s report to discuss how to implement them as quickly as possible. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito was an early supporter of the #CLOSErikers campaign and created the Commission. She has been a staunch supporter of smart criminal justice reform in New York City. More than 20 NYC Council Members have endorsed the #CLOSErikers campaign.
At the state level, Governor Cuomo has repeatedly called for the closure of Rikers Island. Advocates urged Governor Cuomo to support one bill that would reduce the pretrial detention at Rikers, making closure possible: Kalief’s Law (S1998-A Squadron/A3055-A Aubry). Named for Kalief Browder who, after being arrested at the age of 16, spent three years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime and subsequently committed suicide after his release, Kalief’s Law would fix the broken courts to ensure a faster trial process, benefitting victims, taxpayers, defendants — and justice. Kalief’s Law has strong bipartisan support – in March, the bill passed the Assembly unanimously, 130 – 0. It now awaits action in the Senate.
“New Yorkers value justice and fairness, and that’s why it’s unacceptable for the city and state to continue to leave people who have not been convicted of a crime to languish in jail for years,” said gabriel sayegh, a leader in the #CLOSErikers campaign and Co-executive Director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. Our broken criminal justice system needs speedy trial reform. Governor Cuomo clearly understands the urgent imperative of closing Rikers Island once and for all, and that’s why New Yorkers need him to act to get Kalief’s Law through the Senate.”
Nearly 8,000 people are detained on Rikers on any given day. Almost 90 percent of these individuals are Black or Latino, despite making up only 56 percent of New York City’s population, and most come from the city’s poorest neighborhoods. About 80 percent of people on Rikers have not yet been convicted of any crime. Many of the people waiting for their cases to be processed are too poor to afford even minimal amounts to secure bail and instead languish in a facility plagued by violence, corruption, and death.
US Attorney Preet Bharara issued a report in 2014 detailing the “culture of violence” at Rikers, and New York City taxpayers spent nearly $13 million last year alone to settle claims of wrongful death and injury behind its bars.
Rikers is also the most expensive and least effective component of New York City’s criminal justice system, to the tune of $247,000 per year, per bed. More than 40 percent of people detained at Rikers have received mental health treatment during their confinement, and many more are dealing with issues related to substance use, conditions only exacerbated in the facility.
The #CLOSErikers campaign has maintained that Rikers is beyond reform and that the only solution to ending the human rights atrocities and wasteful spending endemic to the institution is to close it.
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 other organizations, 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 140 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. www.closerikers.org
“BronxConnect rejoices at the opportunity we have before us: to change the trajectory of communities that have been traditionally gutted by incarceration and violence,” Reverend Wendy Calderón-Payne, Executive Director of BronxConnect. We urge our political leaders to set their eyes on a vision of the strong society that we can create when our sons and daughters are given proper resources and rehabilitation. We cannot wait a decade to close Rikers! The work begins today, with funding alternatives, changing discovery, speedy trial and bail laws and planning for small community facilities that can be the center of hope and redemption. We are New York City and we must lead the country is justice reform and strong community building!”
“Closing Rikers will send a message across the nation that New York City is serious about ending mass incarceration and creating a criminal justice system that is no longer rooted in punishment, but fosters greater public safety,” said Darren Mack, a #CLOSErikers member. “However, we cannot wait ten years to close the Abu Gharib of NYC. We must speed up the process. This campaign has brought the voices of people harmed by Rikers to the forefront of policy decisions, and we will continue to do that.”
“I am overwhelmed with the fact that we have the opportunity to reimagine our criminal justice systems, and invest in our communities that have been directly impacted by Rikers Island,” said Samantha Johnson, a #CLOSErikers member. “This is a moment in history for me, and my community, and I know we must continue to grind and make sure the closure of Rikers Island is done right. Mayor Bill de Blasio, we will still hold you accountable to make sure that black and brown communities directly impacted by torture island are given the space, and resources to heal and thrive.”
“Having become close with Kalief Browder, I was deeply affected by his tragic suicide after spending three years enduring unspeakable torture at Rikers for a charge that was ultimately dismissed,” said comedian and actress Rosie O’Donnell. “We cannot allow what happened to Kalief to happen to anyone else, and as long as Rikers remains open, we are taking that risk. The #CLOSErikers campaign has accomplished what no one else could – a commitment that New York City will shut down the jail complex. But the work is just beginning. We cannot wait a decade for closing Rikers to become a reality. Concrete action must begin today.”
“It’s great news that Mayor de Blasio has joined our efforts to #CLOSErikers, but now the real work begins,” said Levele Pointer, Community Leader in VOCAL-NY. “We need immediate action to end low level arrests, get rid of high bails and actually divert people away from incarceration. I know first-hand about the horrors of Rikers, but until I see real action to reduce incarceration & criminalization, it will be hard to believe that NYC is committed to Rikers actually being closed.”
“I commend the #CLOSErikers campaign for bringing the voices of men and women harmed by Rikers into the conversation about what New York’s criminal justice system should look like, said actress Olivia Wilde. “Stories of pervasive abuse by staff, sexual assault, and other violence make it clear that Rikers must be shut down. New Yorkers will not tolerate a justice system that is inhumane and unfair. Too many lives have already been destroyed. We must work together to ensure that Rikers is closed as soon as possible and replaced by a system that truly promotes justice.”
“The Arab American Association of New York is honored to have been on the #CLOSErikers campaign for the past year and proud of the success that the campaign has achieved in such little time,” said Aber Kawas, Director of Advocacy at the Arab American Association of New York. “As an organization that serves and represents majority Arab and Muslim clients we represented the horrific experiences that so many of our community members faced in Rikers, while being targeted for surveillance, deportation, and arrest under Islamophobic post 9/11 policies. The mayor’s announcement to close Rikers was a victory for all our communities, but our work is not done yet and we will support calls to speed up the process and ensure that the funds and land that Rikers sits on is allocated to disenfranchised communities. We want Rikers closed today!”
“While we are extremely encouraged by the news that Rikers will close, and that, with the passage of Raise the Age legislation, 16 and 17 year olds will be removed from the premises within 3 years – we need to ensure that services are available and communities are prepared to support our incarcerated brothers and sisters upon re-entry,” said Carmen Perez, Founder of Justice League NYC and Co-Chair of the Women’s March on Washington. “And we need to make the same commitment to stopping policies and systems that fuel the pathways to incarceration – especially for youth of color.”
“I commend Mayor de Blasio’s leadership in announcing the long overdue closure of Rikers Island,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “This is a tremendous victory that will improve the lives of thousands of people. But New Yorkers subjected to the conditions at Rikers can’t afford to wait a decade. This victory in New York City is only the first step. We must now redouble our efforts in Albany to ensure the closure of Rikers Island moves as quickly as possible.”
“I’m looking forward to the day when Rikers will officially become a relic of the bygone era of mass incarceration,” said Mallah Divine Mallah, a #CLOSErikers members. “Rikers was the breeding ground that destroyed the spirit and souls of our bright communities. Ten years is too long of a wait for the communities that have already been harmed by this violent institution. We need the Mayor and stakeholders within the criminal justice system to take action now – not only to close Rikers, but to repair the damage that was done to our communities.”
“It’s a great feeling to know that the Mayor of New York City is answering the call of the residents,” said K-Born Rivers, Founder of I Am My Community INC in the Bronx. “Being on Rikers Island and having to live through the pain and corruption, I took it personally when I was asked to be a part of the #CLOSErikers Campaign. It’s far from over, because now it’s time to push full speed ahead and work on getting speedy trial reform in New York. It’s time for the Mayor to fund grassroots organizations and local programs, so that we can help keep people from going to Rikers or getting arrested at all.”
“I thank the mayor for doing the right thing, but I think we can do better,” said Theresa Sweeney, JustLeadserhipUSA Leading with Conviction 2016 fellow and #CLOSErikers member. “Ten years is too long for the people on Torture Island. As someone who worked on Rikers, I witnessed the violence on a daily basis. We still have a lot of work to do on the state level to decrease the jail population in New York City.”
“When thinking about how hard we fight for freedom, it’s hard to acknowledge the hardships that come with those thoughts,” said William Evans, #CLOSErikers Member and Founder & President of Neighborhood Benches. “To turn around and think freedom will take another ten years, that’s painful and feels unpromising. As people seeking justice for people similar to me, we should all seek out freedom from such a harsh reality and site as Rikers Island, therefore closing it sooner will free us all.”
“Recent movements to close Rikers Island are a sign of hope, but anyone who has set foot in these jails knows in his or her heart that it must be torn down so we can start over,” said Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “Mayor de Blasio must now seize the opportunity to restore the yearning for human dignity, from both detainees and DOC staff, that has been shredded to pieces for so many on Rikers Island over the years.”
“ALIGN-NY is a longstanding alliance of community and labor united for a just and sustainable New York. ALIGN-NY is a proud partner of the #CLOSErikers campaign,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director, ALIGN-NY. “We are pleased to see the Lippman Report’s recommendations and the Mayor’s commitment to close the Rikers Island Jail Complex. For too long, Rikers has been a symbol of violence and racial injustice. We look forward to continuing to partner with the #CLOSErikers campaign and hope that its closure becomes a vehicle for further progress towards equity, fair employment and healthier environments in NYC.”
“The Bronx Freedom Fund applauds the Mayor for recognizing Rikers Island for what it truly is: violent, abusive, and unjust,” said Ezra Ritchin, Project Director at the Bronx Freedom Fund. “But the real work is ahead of us. Now that we have named the problem, it’s time to make good on that promise and ensure the speedy closure of Rikers. In order to get there, we need to move away from broken windows policing and towards a more humane justice system that focuses on safety and rehabilitation, rather than punishment and incarceration. The Bronx Freedom Fund, in bailing out those who cannot afford to secure their release, continues to fight alongside the #CLOSErikers campaign to create a leaner and more effective justice system. We look forward to working to shut down the Island, led by the #CLOSErikers partners and communities, who are most familiar with its abuses.”
“The Lippmann Commission has made a number of powerful recommendations. Their report is not only a plan to close the Rikers Island Jail Complex, but more importantly, it is a blueprint for reforming the entire criminal justice system in a way that will make it more just and humane, more efficient and less costly,” said Francis Greenburger, Founder and President of the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice. “In a remarkable, year long effort, the Commission captured Speaker Mark-Viverto’s vision for a more just New York. With the continued and unflinching leadership of Glenn Martin, the #CLOSErikers campaign and others, and the commitment of Mayor deBlasio, I have great hope that this new vision for justice will soon become a reality for all New Yorkers and that the penal colony that is Rikers Island will be a thing of the past in the years ahead.”
“SURJ NYC is honored to be a partner on the #CLOSErikers campaign, and to celebrate a year of tireless work to close this notorious jail complex,” said members of Showing Up for Racial Justice NYC. “But this work is just beginning. SURJ NYC will continue to work in tandem with #CLOSErikers to keep the pressure on NYC, and to ensure that the voices and priorities of the communities disproportionately affected by mass incarceration remain at the center of the closure process. The toll that the violence of these jails has taken on our city is far reaching–beginning with those who have been incarcerated there and multiplying through their families & communities, corrections officers, and the officers’ families. Every New Yorker has a stake in keeping up the pressure to #CLOSErikers for good.”
“By closing Rikers, we can transform our jail and criminal justice system from a blot on the City’s conscience to a much smaller, more humane system of rehabilitation, and chart a 21st century path that is a national model, not an urban shame,” said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. “But let’s be clear, this work is just beginning. And you can be sure that I will continue to work with leaders like Glenn Martin of JustLeadershipUSA and alongside the #CLOSErikers campaign to monitor and assess conditions at Rikers, which for too long have been marked by rising costs and declining conditions for officers and inmates alike, until we all have a corrections system that is worthy of our great city.”
“For decades, Rikers Island has been marked by violence, corruption, and the needless destruction of human lives. And while we’ve made progress with the announcement of the Mayor’s recent commitment to close Rikers, as each day passes, New Yorkers are still facing its destructive wrath,” said Council Member Brad Lander, the Council’s Deputy Leader for Policy. “For those like Kalief Brown, we must rally together, to ensure the closing of Rikers in a timely manner, and with the great leadership of the #CLOSERikers campaign, finally bring an end to this dark chapter of abuse, violence, corruption, and systematic racism in our criminal justice system.”
“Now that we’ve achieved the historic commitment to close Rikers, it’s time to look forward towards building a more just system that strengthens and empowers our communities,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “This is a unique opportunity for our City to become a leader in ending mass incarceration and investing in programs that expand opportunity and reduce recidivism. I’m excited to achieve these goals alongside the administration, my colleagues, activists like JustLeadershipUSA and the New Yorkers who are fighting on the front lines of this issue every day.”
“The time to close Rikers is now,” said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). “I urge the de Blasio administration to withdraw capital funding for facilities on Rikers from the upcoming executive budget proposal. Several Council Members have already agreed to house new, smaller facilities in their districts and the Mayor should act quickly on those commitments. Detainees awaiting court dates should not be subjected to spending another day in the hellhole that Rikers has become.”
“We have never been closer to closing Rikers Island,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Yet to make this goal a reality, to truly achieve justice and safety, we still have so much further to go. We must move beyond hopeful rhetoric. We must push forward with the necessary reforms suggested by the Lippman Commission as soon as possible. Each day Rikers is open is another day a New Yorker comes face to face with this profound failure of our criminal justice system. I’m willing to do what it takes to turn this talk into reality and I hope other leaders in government will join me.”
“The closing of Rikers signifies an impactful step forward in criminal justice reform and, simply, it is the right thing to do,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. “Now the City must move forward in implementing reforms that will ensure that individuals involved with the justice system are treated with dignity and respect.”
“The attorneys of our union have long seen the multitude of abuses on Rikers Island, both defending our clients who are held there, as well as the members of our Parole Revocation Defense Unit who are located at the Rikers Island Detention Center,” said Deborah Wright, President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys-UAW Local 2325. “While we applaud the closing of this facility, we call on Mayor DeBlasio to ensure a speedy transition which centers the most affected communities, as well as to address the root causes of mass incarceration and broken windows policing, which criminalize working class communities and communities of color.”
“As #CLOSErikers organizational partners, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC is thrilled to have reached this timely moment in the campaign,” said Devyn Mañibo, Community Engagement Coordinator, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC. “Not only do we have Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support, but one year later, the campaign has gained the collective power of so many incredible community organizations working towards criminal justice reform. Together, we can and will hold decision makers accountable. This victory only amplifies the work to be done, and through creative, equitable, and comprehensive change, we will succeed in closing Rikers and building communities.”
“Closing Rikers Island is the right decision,” said Rev. Rubén Austria, Executive Director of Community Connections for Youth. “But it would be a shame to continue the shameful practice of simply building or renovating more jails that operate according to the status-quo, which is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titantic as it sunk. We call on New York City to reinvest its $1.3 billion dollar jail budget – $247,000 per person held in the Rikers Island Jail Complex- in PEOPLE, not incarceration.”
“These recent victories are the result of tireless organizing by communities and individuals who have been directly impacted by the horrors of Rikers Island,” said Justine Olderman, Managing Director at the Bronx Defenders. “We commend the Mayor for responding to their concerns and recognizing that Rikers Island and must be shuttered for good. But closing Rikers is not enough. We must double down on our efforts to close Rikers as soon as possible, and reduce the number of people in our city’s jails, starting with the revolving door of arrests created by broken windows policing. We must also ensure that the culture of violence and degradation that was tolerated for too long at Rikers is never replicated ever again.”
“The acknowledged failure of Rikers Island to rehabilitate lives must now focus on a more humane system that leads to education, jobs, health care, housing and opportunity,” said Robert Cordero, Executive Director of Grand St. Settlement. “The alternative is a continued bankruptcy of justice that we can no longer afford in New York City.”
“New York Lawyers for the Public Interest stands proudly with the CLOSErikers movement and applauds Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that the City of New York intends to shut down the jail,” said McGregor Smyth, Executive Director of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “As advocates for disability rights and environmental and health justice, we have seen how the appalling conditions and treatment of people detained at Rikers Island cause serious harm to individuals and communities. NYLPI looks forward to working with JustLeadershipUSA and other campaign partners to transform the way NYC handles criminal justice to better reflect the values of this progressive and diverse City.”
“Closing Rikers is about having a vision of a more socially-just New York that refuses to criminalize people because they are poor,” said Alex S. Vitale, Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. “New Yorkers who are poor, disabled, or suffering from mental illness or addiction need adequate housing, income supports, and medical and social services, not cages. Closing Rikers doesn’t just mean moving people from one jail system to another. It means rethinking our whole approach to crime and disorder. We need to develop an infrastructure of services that deals with the underlying causes of public safety issues.”
“Mayor de Blasio’s acknowledgement that Rikers is dysfunctional and untenable, and the Lippman Report’s recommendations, are just the first steps in an urgent process to close Rikers,” said Thomas Safian, Executive Director of Refoundry. “This provides an opportunity for debate and discussion on how best to create a cohesive and comprehensive model for criminal justice that is humane, effective, and serves the best interests of all. The frontline movement, #CLOSErikers, launched just a year ago, and demonstrates how much we can accomplish when we continue to keep these critical issues in the spotlight, and to hold our leaders, and all New Yorkers, accountable.”
“We are encouraged that the process is in motion to remove 16 and 17 year olds from Rikers Island,” said Laurie Parise, Executive Director of Youth Represent. “However, thousands of older teenagers and young adults continue to endure violence and isolation at Rikers Island each year. We echo the call for a speedy closure of Rikers and a smaller youth justice system.”
“In solidarity with the #CLOSErikers Campaign and all affected communities, NASW-NYC joins the voices of those who celebrate the Mayor’s commitment to close Rikers Island, but recognizes the important work yet to be done,” said members of the National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter. “NASW-NYC reiterates that legislators must remain steadfast in the implementation of closing Rikers. Along with campaign partners, we will hold all stakeholders accountable. As a historical vehicle of systemic racism, mass incarceration has disproportionately targeted communities for far too long. NASW-NYC highlights and calls for the counsel of social workers to aid in this historic move for equity in NYC.”
“The Innocence Project applauds the recent announcement by Mayor de Blasio to follow the recommendation of the independent commission to at long last close the Rikers Island Jail Complex, drastically reduce the number of people jailed in New York City and replace the notoriously dangerous jails with borough-based facilities close to the courts,” said Maddy deLone, Executive Director of the Innocence Project. “The vast majority of people held at Rikers are people of color, presumed innocent, who cannot afford bail. The conditions at Rikers are one more contributing factor to a system that compels innocent people to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit. It is our hope that the city moves quickly to implement the plan and reduce the city’s jail population.”
“With the end of Rikers finally in sight, we will continue to support our grassroots allies to mobilize and hold legislators accountable for making sure the dysfunctional and corrupt jail is finally closed,” said Brandon Holmes, Criminal Justice Organizer at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “This will only happen when both our city and state see meaningful criminal justice reform, like speedy trial reform, that will help end mass incarceration and ensure that what happened to Kalief Browder and his family never happens again.”
“For every parent incarcerated at Rikers Island, there is at least one child who is left behind,” said Sharon Content, Founder and President of Children of Promise NYC. “When we work with these kids at Children of Promise, NYC, they speak about the grief of having lost a parent to incarceration, and the confusion of not knowing when they will return. They tell us about the fear that they experience when they are made to walk through the heavy locked doors at Rikers to visit their incarcerated parent and the pain when they have to leave, wondering what their parent is experiencing inside the doors of a facility with an exhaustively researched culture of violence. In the name of the children we serve, we are proud to celebrate the successes of JustLeadershipUSA and the #CLOSErikers campaign. When we see these children every day, and see the pain of what they continue to experience by having a parent incarcerated at Rikers, we know that a 10 year process is too long. For those incarcerated at Rikers Island, for their families, and for their children, we need a more restorative and rehabilitating criminal justice system”
This time last year, the notion of closing Rikers seemed like a pipe dream for a distant future,” said Juan Cartagena, LatinoJustice President and General Counsel. “However, thanks to the diligent work of advocates on the ground and the recommendations made by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform Chaired by Judge Jonathan Lippmann, that dream is closer to reality than ever before. While LatinoJustice PRLDEF applauds all of the hard work that brought us to this historic point, we need to maintain our resolve to ensure that we actually accomplish the stated objective of CLOSING Rikers as quickly as possible, and make sure that future generations are not subjected to the horrors of Rikers Island.”
“For many years, CASES has provided alternative sanctions to keep young people and adults including those with mental illness off of Rikers Island,” said Joel Copperman, Chief Executive Officer of CASES. “We are thrilled by the Mayor’s commitment to close that facility–this is a needed and essential commitment to change the culture of the criminal justice system in New York City. CASES is committed to supporting this effort by working with both the city and advocates to expand jail alternatives that can help people who have become involved in the justice system to remain safely in the community while accessing the services they may need.”
“Today we celebrate the call for the closure of Rikers Island by both Mayor de Blasio and the Independent Commission on New York Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform,” said Peter Goldberg, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. “This victory is in large part due to the tireless work over the last year by JustLeadershipUSA and the Katal Center for Equity and Justice in leading #CLOSErikers campaign, and to decades of organizing done by directly impacted individuals, grassroots organizations and advocates who demanded that New York City shut Rikers down. While we celebrate this victory, we know there is much work to be done to transform this commitment into reality. Closing Rikers requires implementing the Commission’s commonsense reforms. As the Commission noted, “New York should eliminate money bail. A person’s freedom should not be determined by what’s in his or her wallet.” Not only is this a moral imperative, it is necessary if we are to close Rikers once and for all. Seventy-five percent of individuals detained on Rikers Island are there pretrial. They have been convicted of no crime. Most of them are being held for the inability to afford bail. We can end that injustice and make progress towards shutting down Rikers by ending cash bail immediately. We are proud to be part of the #CLOSErikers campaign and we will continue to work with our partners to close Rikers and eliminate cash bail.”
“We commend Mayor de Blasio’s and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito’s rigorous work on Judge Jonathan Lippman’s commission, and their commitment to close Rikers Island.,” said Mark Goldsmith, Co-Founder and President of Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO). “We strongly advocate that the facilities be closed as soon as possible, and will continue to fight for broad criminal justice reform that addresses the policies that disproportionately impact our most vulnerable and marginalized citizens. Until then, we will continue working every day, in the jails, courts, and our communities, to reduce recidivism and assist justice-involved young men achieve their personal and professional goals.”
“We applaud the recommendations of the Lippman Commission to close Rikers Island, and Mayor de Blasio’s support of that recommendation,” said JoAnne Page, President & CEO of the Fortune Society. “We are proud of the role that our Executive Vice President, Stanley Richards, played in helping to craft that recommendation based, in part, upon his own experience while incarcerated at Rikers. But now it is time to turn that recommendation into action with the urgency that it requires. We need to start by reducing the number of people locked up at Rikers, removing young people from the Island, providing services and safety for those still incarcerated there, and starting the process of replacing Rikers by moving people closer to their communities and attorneys. Fortune is committed to our part in the work that needs to be done.”
“To make closing Rikers a reality rather than an aspiration, the City must take bold and vigorous action to rethink and reform corrections right now,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “It must cease relying on jail as a brutal waystation for people of color who await trial, and must take concrete steps to hold officials and supervisors responsible for the violence and sexual abuse that is embedded in the jail culture.”
“The West Side Commons believes we must Build Communities, Not Jails and Prisons,” said Kelley Williams, Executive Director of The West Side Commons. “The #CLOSErikers movement shows us all that people can raise awareness and have an impact on the issues that directly affect them and their communities.”
“Rikers harms people,” said David Condliffe, Executive Director of the Center for Community Alternatives. “Accordingly, the Center for Community Alternatives is proud to continue to join the #CLOSERikers Campaign. Every day this harm continues is a day too many.”