With the welcome news that the jail complex on Rikers Island is now headed for eventual closure, there is an opportunity to think more deeply about the people who end up there. The number of women in the American justice system increased by more than 700 percent from 1980 to 2014 – yet women lack visibility. On any given day 600 women are jailed at Rikers Island, yet they are absent from the larger narrative about incarceration.
The announcement by Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito that the jail complex on Rikers Island will be closed has been widely celebrated, and with good reason. The culture of violence and profound isolation have made Rikers a symbol of all that ails criminal justice in the U.S. But arguing for change is one thing; making it happen is a different matter entirely.
About 18 months ago, there seemed to be a growing national consensus about the imperative of criminal-justice reform. There was rare bipartisan agreement on the scale and scope of the challenges America’s incarceration crisis presents. While it seems that federal momentum for reform has slowed—if not reversed, as of late—it’s still possible to take meaningful steps toward justice locally.
Time moves both fast and slow on Rikers Island. Former inmates of the notorious New York City jail told Al Jazeera of eternity-like bouts of solitary confinement. Others recalled split-second flashes of savagery, from stabbings with crude blades to rapes. Now, the isolated lockup in the murky East River has a sentence of its own. Officials and campaigners have merged behind a plan to close Rikers - which is nicknamed Torture Island for its legendary brutality - within 10 years.
Two of the biggest players in the report on closing Rikers Island, former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Greg Berman of the Center for Court Innovation, joined the Slant podcast on April 17 to talk about becoming “radicalized” on shutting down the island’s jails and more.
The drumbeat to close Rikers Island’s jails has reached a deafening pitch, and for the first time New York City has an official plan to do it. The lead author of the report detailing Rikers Island's closure, former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, joined the podcast on Monday, April 17, along with Greg Berman, director of the Center for Court Innovation, who also worked on the report.
Editorial: New York’s smart criminal justice reform sets an example for Sessions to follow
By: Editorial Board, New York Times
Even as the Trump administration begins to regress on criminal justice, states continue to find more rational and humane ways to handle crime. In New York, for example, which currently runs an unjustifiably harsh criminal justice system, reform is taking place on several fronts.
This week Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that although it might take 10 years, the notorious Rikers Island jail is scheduled for closure. The announcement comes in the wake of public outrage over horror stories often times recounted and reported by inmates and correction officers alike. The city was scrutinized over conditions at the facility after the 2015 death of Kalief Browder, who was arrested at the age of 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack and spent three years at Rikers Island without a trial. Two years after his release, Browder committed suicide at age 22. Browder’s case has recently sparked interest in part because of the six-part documentary “TIME: The Kalief Browder Story” on SpikeTV, which premiered Wednesday night.
New Yorkers overwhelmingly support a wide range of criminal justice reforms to reduce the number of inmates as part of the plan to shut down Rikers Island, according to a survey commissioned by an independent panel that recommended the closure of the jail complex.
Last weekend, an independent commission revealed a plan for closing New York City’s infamous Rikers Island jail complex. The proposal, developed at the City Council’s urging by a team of criminal justice experts, policymakers, and advocates, calls for shifting inmates to smaller facilities across the five boroughs and redeveloping the island’s 400 acres into new public utilities.
Rikers Island could become a key cog for New York’s LaGuardia Airport. At least that’s one vision for the island that's included in a city-sponsored proposal on what to with the notorious island that sits next to the airport.
The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform casts a long shadow. Since it was established by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito more than a year ago, the commission, chaired by Jonathan Lippman, the former chief judge of New York, has been steadily working toward a goal that was until very recently considered a political impossibility: the closure of the city’s notoriously brutal jail complex on Rikers Island.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is suddenly on the side of closing Rikers Island, the New York City jail complex synonymous with brutality, incompetence, corruption and neglect. If there is one place that exemplifies the national disgrace of mass incarceration, of inmates languishing without trial, of the warehousing of those with mental illnesses, it’s Rikers.
The culture of violence and neglect on Rikers Island is so severe and deeply ingrained that the only solution is to close the notorious prison complex by 2027 and raze its buildings to the ground, a plan that could save the city more than $1 billion per year, according to a new report.
The Independent Commission call their report a new blueprint for criminal justice in New York - buildings like the Tombs Detention Facility in Manhattan will be getting a lot more focus as the 10-year plan to close Rikers Island moves forward, which is a place that is an affront to humanity and decency and a stain on our city's reputation.
A 27-member commission with public and private sector leaders from across the city unveiled an ambitious 10-year plan Sunday to cut the city’s jail population in half, build new detention centers near the courthouses in each borough and shutter Rikers Island — the notorious jail complex that’s become a symbol of mass incarceration and brutality.
The independent commission studying Rikers Island officially released its recommendations for closing the troubled jail complex on Sunday, more than a year after the panel was convened and two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York reversed course to back the plan.
Road to City Hall: Closing Rikers - but what's the plan?
By: Road to City Hall, Spectrum NY 1
Hours after Mayor de Blasio threw his support behind the campaign to close Rikers Island, Errol Louis discussed a plan to actually make that happen with former Chief Judge of New York Jonathan Lippman, activist Glenn Martin and former City Correction Commissioner Michael Jacobson.
For more than a year, dozens of city officials, academics, politicians, former judges and advocates have studied the conditions at Rikers Island Jail, the penal colony that's been called "disgusting" and "inhumane" by everyone from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
They’re Finally Going To Close Rikers Island, America’s Monument To Jail Cruelty
By: Andy Campbell, HuffPost
Rikers Island, the gigantic island of incarceration in New York City that serves as an embarrassing emblem of violence, cruelty and neglect in the American jail system, is finally on its way to shutting down for good.
Americans have been hearing horrible stories for years now about life on Rikers Island, the miserable New York City jail complex where suspected criminals often languish for years and sometimes die. After fighting, with some success, to improve conditions there, reformers gravitated toward a more drastic solution in 2016: shut the hellhole down. And now they seem to be on the cusp of some kind of victory, with city hall poised to get onboard, the New York Times reports.
De Blasio commits to closing Rikers, with few specifics
By: Colby Hamilton and Gloria Pazmino, POLITICO
Just days before a special commission was set to release a report calling for the closure of Rikers Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday he supports a ten-year timeline to shutter the troubled jail.
Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed on Friday to close the troubled jail complex on Rikers Island, which has spawned federal investigations, brought waves of protests and became a byword for brutality, in a move he said was intended to end an era of mass incarceration in New York City.