June 4, 2019

Statement from #CLOSErikers Campaign on Moving Plan Forward

to Accomplish Historic Decarceration in New York City  

NEW YORK CITY — Today, the #CLOSErikers campaign concluded a day of action by issuing the following statement:

“Directly impacted leaders and advocates with the #CLOSErikers campaign are energized as we move forward in our struggle to accomplish historic decarceration in New York City. New York City currently has a capacity of 15,000 beds and 7,500 are occupied. With the recent news from the de Blasio administration that they would decrease their proposal for four borough-based facilities with improved conditions from 5,750 to 4,600 beds citywide (with capacity for 4,000) — we are proud that our push for further decarceration has yielded a proposed plan that would achieve the most significant decarceration of a big city in the history of the United States, solidifying New York City as the most decarcerated city in the United States.  

“At the same time, we believe the City still has the opportunity to decarcerate further in the near future — reducing the borough-based facilities capacity to under 3,000 beds through additional legislation and executive action including an end to the NYPD’s gang database and raids, broken windows policing, implementing treatment for people with serious mental health needs, and funding ATIs to scale to eliminate City year sentences.

“Furthermore — a serious commitment to decarceration will address decriminalization and community investments. This plan has the potential to save more than $500 million dollars per year, which must be invested in all of the things that have been proven to create true public safety — including expansive affordable and supportive housing and programs that address educational, employment and mental health needs early, fully, and outside of the carceral system. Even before the savings from this plan are realized, the City could begin justice reinvestment by divesting from policing and incarceration (from NYPD to DOC to DA budgets) and fully investing in the needs of our communities as outlined in our #buildCOMMUNITIES platform.

“Advocates in New York have been working to close Rikers for decades. Our advocacy prior to and during the Lippman Commission hearings seeded a plan to make closure a real possibility. Our #buildCOMMUNITIES platform for community reinvestment is a roadmap to build the world that will get us to a zero jail population. In the meantime, directly impacted people know that conditions matter – we support the borough-based plan and urge the Borough Presidents and City Council to move the plan forward with the following conditions outlined in our leader testimonies:

  • “The DOC must not manage the new facilities. The culture of violence and abuse by DOC staff is well-documented and we must ensure it ends with the end of Rikers.  
  • “Ahead of the October ULURP vote, Mayor de Blasio must double down on his commitment to close Rikers by removing all people with serious mental health needs from the Corrections system entirely, and instead into treatment settings not managed by the Department of Corrections. This is not only the right thing to do, it will reduce the number of people detained significantly.
  • “The mayor’s office should provide a clear update on the feasibility study they issued in March which will enable advocates to have concrete data on people with serious mental illness or drug treatment needs who can and should be housed outside of Correctional custody and in therapeutic settings.
  • “The 2019 budget cycle gives the mayor and City Council an opportunity to further invest in strong, effective alternatives to incarceration that would completely eliminate sentences of one year or less, including treatment options for people living with addiction. With this investment the City can plan for 900 less people in the jail or prison system.
  • “The mayor must not wait for the State to solve the problems at Rikers Island and must do everything in his power to transform the way our communities are policed in New York City. By decriminalizing the most common low level offenses (turnstile jumping, sex work, marijuana possession, gravity knives), the City can plan for 100 less people in the jail system and address the harms and generational trauma of broken windows policing.
  • “While New York City Council passed a resolution to support Katal Center’s Less Is More legislation on parole reform in Albany, this administration must commit to advocate for massive parole reform. Much of the reforms within Less Is More have already been implemented in the New York City Department of Probation. If we are to achieve parole reform at the State level, the City can plan for 700 less people in the jail system before the ULURP vote.
  • “The facilities must be designed for further decarceration, and to be adapted to other uses as that happens. We have every reason to think the number of people incarcerated in this city will continue to drop – that has been the trend over the past twenty-plus years, and a trend which could be accelerated even faster by the kinds of investments we’re calling for in our #buildCOMMUNITIES campaign.
  • “The City must begin demolishing empty buildings on Rikers. The 2018 “Worst Offenders” report from the State Commission on Corrections indicated that there were at least 5,400 empty jail beds on Rikers Island even one year ago. The number is certainly higher now. The City can transfer the remaining population to a few facilities and begin demolishing those that are empty, with a focus on the best possible care and conditions for the people being transferred.”