“Today, the city is closer than ever to a level of decarceration that would make closing Rikers a reality. In his State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the average daily population of New York City jails is below 8,000 for the first time since the 1980s. In addition, the Mayor announced that jail admissions have decreased by nearly 50% over the past five years. These are important milestones for the city, and they speak to the power and impact that a movement of formerly incarcerated advocates has had over the past several years.

As crucial as these successes are in our effort to #CLOSErikers, there is so much more that advocates demand – and that this Mayor could do – to rapidly accelerate the efforts to empty out and shut down the Rikers Island 10-jail complex. For example, instead of perpetuating prejudices against impacted communities – which the Mayor did in his recent discriminatory comments regarding bail reform – the Mayor could instead prioritize community engagement so that all voices, particularly the voices of directly impacted people, are elevated and amplified in the city’s work to close Rikers Island.

Additionally, the Mayor should be using his power to demand real accountability from his police, prosecutors, and Department of Correction. Arrests may be down, but the terror that Black, brown, and immigrant communities experience every day has not waned. Prosecutors could effectively end money bail, implement speedy trial reform, and enact discovery reforms without any help from Albany, and the Mayor should hold them to this. And the Department of Correction has continuously demonstrated their inability to treat our loved ones with dignity and respect. The Mayor is responsible for their failures and has an obligation to end all traumatic, violent models of supervision.

Although the City plans to close Rikers when its population reaches 5,000, JustLeadershipUSA and its partners will continue to demand further decarceration. Our communities experience trauma and torture every day that Rikers remains open and racially unjust criminalization and jailing policies remain intact.”

Alexander Bryden
alexander@justleadershipusa.org
908.400.7056