It’s been two years since New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would shutter Rikers Island, one of the country’s most notorious jails. And though the decision has been praised by most, questions still remain as to whether or not the proposed action will actually be taken.
On Wednesday, leaders of the #CLOSErikers campaign, a grassroots initiative pushing for the closure of the jail complex by 2024, made their voice known at the City Planning Commission hearing on the matter.
“The #CLOSErikers campaign, led by survivors of Rikers, calls on the City Planning Commission to proceed with ULURP review so we can proceed with our plan, providing a clear path for the city to reduce the capacity of incarcerated people by over 75 percent, moving human beings out of torturous conditions on Rikers, the Boat and other jails,” a statement released prior to the hearing from #CLOSErikers Campaign Coordinator Brandon Holmes, read.
The group proposes that money used to operate the jails be reinvested into rehabilitation programs and other alternatives for incarceration, as well as community resources. Right now the complex is home to 10 jails. #CLOSERikers believes that they should be demolished and replaced with four borough-based jails that hold no more than 4,000 people.
“We call on all New Yorkers to follow the leadership of people who have been incarcerated on Rikers Island and the loved ones who suffered through that torture with them,” Holmes says in support for the effort. “We have led the city to confront this issue and we will be here long after any administration to ensure the fastest possible closure of Rikers Island.”
Rikers Island made its way into mainstream national consciousness following the story of Kalief Browder who was held at the facility for three years, most of it in solitary confinement, as a teenager. More recently in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, a gripping series on the story of the Exonerated Five, Rikers Island is depicted as the first jail 16-year-old Korey Wise is held. Last month, it was rumored that Trump associate Paul Manafort would be held at the infamous facility before being saved by an “intervention.”