The following is in response to the New York Times report “Women Describe Invasive Strip Searches on Visits to City Jails” by Jan Ransom.
Anna Pastoressa, #CLOSErikers campaign member
“Rights are violated. People are subjected to degrading personal violations. Any respect for the humanity, decency, or dignity of human beings is left behind when you cross the bridge to Rikers Island.
“Often, this is how advocates and the people who’ve been subjected to the hell of those jails describe the experience of incarceration. But now New Yorkers are starting to see that this is an accurate description of what’s happening to people who are visitors to Rikers – people like me who have made the arduous journey to an isolated torture chamber in the hopes that just a few moments with a caged loved one can offer some strength in a moment of unimaginable pain and suffering.
“I have a son who was held at Rikers for six years. When I would visit my son, I was inappropriately searched by guards, intentionally humiliated in front of other people, and reminded time and again that, in the eyes of Corrections Officers, I am the less-than-human mother of a less-than-human monster whose being caged is crucial for the greater good of our community. I was forced to endure trauma that I would not wish on anyone, and was forced to endure it in the process of trying to see my child who was being subjected to a different form of inhumanity, brutality, and hopeless isolation.
“My son is why Rikers must close. I am why Rikers must close. My family is not alone in the trauma that we’ve experienced because of the culture of evil that grips that island. Enough is enough. No more lives or money can be wasted there. #CLOSErikers now.”
Brandon J. Holmes, #CLOSErikers Campaign Coordinator
“We are repulsed by the news that visitors to Rikers Island are being groped and violated as they are endure an already painful process of visiting a loved one in jail. That children would have to bear witness to that is an added stain on the moral fabric of New York City and all those who continue to defend Rikers or seek to perpetuate its existence. Rikers must close now and that is just another of thousands of reasons why.
“In January 2018, our campaign partner Jails Action Coalition released a report, ’It Makes Me Want to Cry’: Visiting Rikers Island that ‘documents [Jails Action Coalition’s] findings and includes recommendations for improving the visit process.’ I urge all New Yorkers to read this crucial document to gain a better understanding of what New York City can and must do to protect incarcerated families until the only real solution of closing Rikers is achieved.”