For the last 87 years, Rikers Island has held our family members, friends, and neighbors in cages and—far too often—tortured them in unspeakable ways. Rikers Island stands in complete opposition to New Yorkers’ values.
Rikers is an isolated island in the middle of the east river made of landfill. There are nine active jails on the island plus a floating jail barge (aka “The Boat”) anchored to the South Bronx. Every physical aspect of this jail colony dehumanizes the people held there and tells them that they are beneath basic human dignity. As long as any individual is incarcerated in New York City, they should never be subjected to the horrific conditions of Rikers Island or other existing city jails. We must center the experiences of people who are most directly impacted and improve conditions immediately.
The number of people jailed in New York City reached a peak of over 20,000 in the early 1990s, with the vast majority of them not yet convicted of a crime. Today, there are about 7,000 people in jail in New York City and New York ranks as the safest big city in the United States—debunking the myth that incarceration leads to safety. When fully implemented, the plan to close Rikers would reduce the jail population significantly and invest in impacted communities to help address the root causes of poverty and incarceration. A vote no on Thursday only ensures one thing: Rikers Island will remain open. The New York City Council must seize this opportunity to transform the justice system and commit to long term decarceration.
Please join us in this fight for justice. Tell the New York City Council that it is time to #CLOSErikers!