In April 2016, JustLeadershipUSA launched the #CLOSErikers campaign, centering the leadership of people harmed by Rikers to demand the closure of the notorious jail complex. In the span of a year, organizers took the demand to close Rikers from a lofty ideal to the stated policy of New York City. Today, this movement continues to gain strength and momentum for our demand that Rikers is closed forever. We have a real opportunity to make this happen. We cannot allow more lives to be harmed by Rikers. We will not allow money to be wasted on Rikers instead of used to repair the harm that the justice system has done in our communities. We cannot allow New York City to keep caging people in barbaric facilities that are steeped in a culture of violence. Rikers cannot be reformed. It is truly irredeemable. The problem with Rikers is Rikers and there is only one solution. We can redefine justice in New York City. Together we can #CLOSErikers and #buildCOMMUNITIES.
In order to #CLOSErikers, we must significantly reduce the number of people being detained there in the first place. Significant efforts to achieve this are already underway. Under pressure from many of the same groups that lead the #CLOSErikers campaign, the de Blasio administration committed to moving adolescents off of the Island. Advocates have pushed the City to explore new and expanded diversion systems, including connecting individuals with mental health and substance use issues to appropriate services, rather than incarceration.
In order to further reduce the Rikers Island population, we have a set of demands for the city, state and criminal legal system. JustLeadershipUSA and key partners launched the #FREEnewyork grassroots campaign in 2017 to achieve real solutions not just to decarcerate Rikers -- but to end New York’s statewide jail crisis due to an unjust pretrial system. We demand passage of the most progressive bail and discovery legislation in the country to ensure that people have access to critical evidence about their case, decarcerate jails, protect Due Process rights, eliminate race- and poverty- based jailing and prevent the use of harmful replacements like algorithmic risk assessment tools, broad preventative detention, punitive supervised release and mass community surveillance.
New York City must close the Rikers Island jails complex (and the Boat) and focus on justice reinvestment by investing cost savings from closure and funds from the NYPD and entire criminal legal system to instead fund everything our communities need to thrive. New York City can achieve justice for thousands and focus on the important work of healing and rebuilding the communities where Rikers has brought suffering.
Join the #CLOSErikers campaign and directly impacted leaders in calling for New Yorkers to boldly reimagine justice in our city and become a national leader in ending mass incarceration.