NYC Council Approves Closing Of Rikers Island

October 18, 2019

Today, the New York City Council approved the closing of Rikers Island, and the construction of four borough-based facilities throughout the city.

This dynamic decision culminates a long-fought battle seeking justice for generations of families of color, those suffering from mental health, and so many others trapped in the vicious cycles of systemic racism and oppression. New York City Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo joined council colleagues in voting “yes’ on the bill.

“This action will bring the jail population to historic lows in New York City, transforming the standard criminal justice system to include an individualized approach and integrating community support,” said Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo. “Between the 4 proposed borough-based facilities, we’ve reduced the bed count from 4,000 to 3,500. This reform will usher in a better New York for generations to come. Our current justice system is solely punitive, wrought with violence, and ignores mental health concerns. I want to close Rikers. I want trauma-informed care for those experiencing mental and emotional disturbances. I want both corrections and health professionals to be safe at work. I want a humane facility that detains those that need to be segregated from society while rehabilitating those that can be successfully reintegrated.”

The Administration has committed to the following:

$54 million expansion of pretrial services including Supervised Release, the City’s primary diversion program. Since its inception in March 2016, Supervised Release has redirected 15,000 individuals from entering jail. This program will be expanded to become an option for people facing every type of criminal charge.

$17 million in new funds to expand and continue Alternatives to Incarceration, a City Council led initiative that will serve an additional 7,300 people per year, reducing the number of people serving sentences in City jails.

$2.7M in new investments and an expansion in the Cure Violence Initiative in 6 areas including the 60th Precinct (Coney island, Brighton Beach, West Brighton Beach, Sea Gate) and 67th Precinct (East Flatbush and Remsen Village)

Increasing Justice Impacted Supportive Housing from 120 to 270 beds, with an additional 230 JISH units for currently homeless, formerly incarcerated individuals, bringing the total bed commitment to 500 units.

“The infamous NYC jail complex bears the name of a 19th-century judge who abused the Fugitive Slave Act, shipping free Blacks to the South and jailing others for years without a hearing or trial. Any proposal to keep Rikers Island open would continue to perpetuate cycles of abuse and trauma. The closing of Rikers will not only affect generations to come, but also pays homage to the many generations of marginalized groups who were so wrongfully treated,” Majority Leader Cumbo stated earlier this week.

This bill was supported by restorative justice advocates including JustLeadershipUSA, Vera Institute of Justice, Exodus Transitional Community, and Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice who employ formerly incarcerated people and promote them as part of their leadership.

“For far too long, this city’s answer to every societal problem was to throw people in jail. Because of that, we lost generations to mass incarceration, mostly young men of color. These investments are at the heart of our plan to close Rikers. We are investing $391 million in our communities to not only reform our system but also address the root causes of incarceration,” Speaker Corey Johnson passionately stated.

These new community-centered facilities will include re-designed intake systems catered towards marginalized populations with histories of trauma. The facilities are located in 4 of the 5 boroughs: 275 Atlantic Ave/ State between Boerum and Smith. Brooklyn, 11201, 124-125 White St. Manhattan, 10013, 126-02 82nd Ave. Queens, 11415 and 320 Concord (Mott Haven) The Bronx, 10454.

“The citywide community justice investments committed to by the de Blasio administration, in consultation with Speaker Johnson and the Council, is an essential component to closing Rikers. We answered the call from advocates across the city to make sure we are not just tearing down old jails to replace them with new jails-we are investing in neighborhoods to transform how we approach community justice for generations to come,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

“I am very proud of the community investments that I have secured from the administrative,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “As a result of these investments our seniors will receive the services that they deserve, our children will be better equipped to succeed, and the community overall will benefit. Moving forward it will be my imperative that these investments will be implemented in a timely and responsible manner.”

“Above all, the effort to close Rikers is about enacting bold policy changes and building investments in marginalized communities to address the root causes of mass incarceration. These citywide investments signal an important step to reforming our broken criminal justice system while deepening support for the communities who need them the most – and that includes Lower Manhattan, which has housed the Manhattan Detention Center for decades,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin.

“Since the initial announcement of the borough-based jail plan in early 2018, I have stressed the importance of holistic community investments for the South Bronx – a neighborhood that has been historically neglected by all levels of government. My staff and I have met with various stakeholders to cultivate a community investment package, including local youth groups, justice-involved people, seniors, public housing residents, community board members, clergy leaders, and social service providers. I am proud to share that their vision will be brought to fruition with the millions of dollars earmarked by the Administration for various investments. With a new youth hub, improved community centers, and an expansion of the Cure Violence program, Mott Haven youth will have access to resources that will help ensure they lead healthy, productive, and rewarding lives. I thank the Bronx Neighborhood Advisory Committee for shaping this package and I look forward to working alongside the Administration to ensure these investments are promptly delivered to the South Bronx,” said Council Member Diana Ayala.

New York City Council Member and Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo represent the 35th District, which covers Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Fort Greene, and Prospect Heights.

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