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2022 Was Rikers Island’s Deadliest Year – Again

New York City, New York - 19 people have perished at Rikers Island in 2022, making this the deadliest year in the jail’s history. Rikers Island’s previous deadliest year was just last year, when 16 people died at the notorious pretrial detention center. NYC Mayor Eric Adams has rejected calls to close the facility, along with demands from advocates for a federal receivership. A federal receivership would give power to a court-appointed, nonpartisan expert to intervene in the situation on Rikers with wide latitude to change conditions in the jail. New York public defender Olayemi Olurin joins Rattling the Bars to discuss the human rights crisis on Rikers Island. Olayemi Olurin is a public defender and staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society and an analyst at the Law & Crime Network and The Hill’s Rising.

New York’s Prison Crisis

Much has been written in recent months about the New York City jail at Rikers Island.  The violence is overwhelming there.  Corruption is endemic.  Prisoners die from neglect or from violent acts with regularity. But the sad truth is that Rikers is not the worst prison in the world, as many believe.  It’s not even the worst prison in New York.  That would be the Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Washington County, New York. The most recent statistics released by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) show that Great Meadow has the highest rate of suicide of any prison in the state, the highest rate of suicide attempts, the highest rate of self-harm and the second-highest rate of staff violence.  These figures point to an ongoing crisis that New York’s politicians have done literally nothing to correct.  And there is no indication whatsoever that federal authorities are willing to get involved.

Mayor De Blasio’s Epic Rikers Island Failure

In 2017, a year after launching the campaign, the mayor was brought to his knees by the unavoidable momentum built by the campaign. He begrudgingly conceded that Rikers needed to close. But the devil was in the details. The mayor punted responsibility by outlining a scantily detailed 10-year plan to close the complex of eight jails on Rikers Island and build four skyscraper jail facilities in locations around the city.

Why I Support Closing Rikers Island Without Building New Jails: A Letter From Prisoner Lee Doane

As New York City lawmakers prepare to cast a critical vote to invest billions of dollars in new jails as part of an effort to close the Rikers Island jail complex, Shadowproof exchanged letters with incarcerated people who are part of the abolitionist No New Jails NYC campaign. These incarcerated people worked alongside outside activists to craft a plan, titled “We Keep Us Safe,” for closing Rikers Island without building new jails. Criminal justice reformers and nonprofits backing Mayor de Blasio’s multi-billion dollar jails plan have responded to No New Jails’ plan, and the legitimate critiques and analysis it...

As We Close Rikers, Essential State-Level Reforms Needed

By Glenn E. Martin for Gotham Gazette - Anyone following New York City politics knows about JustLeadershipUSA’s mission to close the jails at Rikers Island. In less than a year, the #CLOSErikers campaign successfully pressured Mayor Bill de Blasio to commit to shuttering the jail complex. It is no longer a question of if Rikers will close, but when. But the campaign has always known that closing Rikers would require reforms at the state level as well. An overhaul of our statewide bail, speedy trial, and discovery statutes is necessary to reduce the population at Rikers so that it can finally and expeditiously close its doors. Even if Rikers was closed tomorrow, these reforms would still be necessary. While New York City has successfully reduced its jail population over the past few years, county jail populations across the state are growing. Today, 63% of people held in jail in New York State are held in jails outside New York City. Of those 25,000 husbands, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, and loved ones who are sitting in jails across our state, 70% have not been convicted but remain unjustifiably caged while they await the outcome of their cases. This reality is a consequence of punitive and discriminatory criminal justice policies that have decimated communities, primarily poor communities and communities of color, for decades.

Experience ‘RIKERS,’ Face To Face

By Bill Moyers for Moyers & Company - Over the years I have landed at New York’s LaGuardia Airport knowing that the island just off and below the tip of the right wing was Rikers, the city’s largest jail, isolated in the East River within sight of the Manhattan skyline and separated from the borough of Queens by a single bridge. Looking across at the stark jumble of buildings, I had often thought of Alcatraz, on the other side of the continent: penal colonies framing America’s gateways.

1,000 People March And Rally In Queens In To Close Rikers Island Jail Complex

By Gabriel Sayegh for Close Rikers - New York, Sept. 24, 2016 – Nearly 1,000 New Yorkers — including NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Russell Simmons, NYC Council Members Brad Lander, Danny Dromm, and Antonio Reynoso, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Rev. Vivian Nixon, and more — gathered in Queens on Saturday in a historic march and rally to call on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to close Rikers Island Jail Complex.

Activists Launch #CLOSErikers Campaign To Close Rikers Island

By Felipe De La Hoz for Observer - There have been attempts to force the closure of the Rikers Island jail for years, but Glenn Martin thinks that the failed efforts so far have been missing a key ingredient: “the community’s voice.” That’s why Mr. Martin, the founder of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) has put together #CLOSErikers, a group formed by 58 community, faith-based, and criminal justice reform organizations, which launched its campaign with a rally on the steps of City Hall yesterday.

Newsletter – No Justice, No Peace

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report writes that “No justice, no peace” is “a vow by the movement to transform the crisis that is inflicted on Black people into a generalized crisis for the larger society, and for those who currently rule.” In reality, given the violence being inflicted upon people, particularly people of color, whether directly or indirectly through rising poverty, unemployment, homelessness, lack of access to health care and more, and the government’s failures to address these crises and listen to the people, disruption is a necessary element of political change. In 1968 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke outside a prison in California where people were being held for protesting the Vietnam War. In the speech he drew the connections between the Civil Rights movement and the peace movement against the Vietnam War. Today we see the links between racism, inequality, imperialism, militarism and ecocide and his comment on that day continues to ring true: "There can be no justice without peace. And there can be no peace without justice."

Cecily McMillan On Brutality And Humiliation On Rikers Island

I RECENTLY served 58 days of a three-month sentence on Rikers Island. I was convicted in May of assaulting a New York City police officer as the police cleared Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Street protesters in 2012. (I am appealing my conviction.) I got a firsthand experience that I did not seek of what it is like to live behind bars. Rikers is a city jail; it holds some 11,000 inmates who are awaiting trial or sentencing, or who have been convicted and sentenced to a year or less of time. During my incarceration, two correction officers were arrested on charges of smuggling contraband, including drugs, to inmates. The week after I was released, two more correction officers and a captain were arrested on charges of having beaten a handcuffed prisoner into unconsciousness in 2012. Last week, The New York Times reported on the “culture of brutality” on Rikers. The city is now investigating more than 100 reported violent assaults on inmates. None of this would surprise the inmates of the Rose M. Singer Center, the women’s barrack on the island, who routinely experience or witness brutality of all kinds. On one day in May, I was waiting outside the jail pharmacy for my daily A.D.H.D. prescription. A male officer began harassing me, and when I made the mistake of looking at his badge to get his number, he slammed his body into mine and shouted a sexual slur at me.
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