APRIL 22, 2019

Contact: Loretta Kane 917-410-7242 or


Directly Impacted New Yorkers Say Closing Rikers Remains Urgent And Successful ULURP Will Bring Them Closer To Getting It Done

(New York, New York – April 22, 2019) Directly impacted leaders, racial justice, human rights, and public health advocates, and campaign partners including grassroots organizations gathered at 10am today on the steps of City Hall to recognize the third anniversary of the historic #CLOSErikers campaign. In 2017, the campaign secured a commitment from the de Blasio administration to close the jail complex. Campaign members celebrated years of work that they believe will lead to the imminent closure of Rikers Island. Partners in attendance today included: JustLeadershipUSA; The Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice; College and Community Fellowship; Beyond Rosies; Exodus Transitional Community; Bronx Defenders; Jails Action Coalition; LatinoJustice PRLDF; VOCAL-New York;  Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project; and City Council Members in support of the campaign including Brooklyn Councilmember Steve Levin.

The Plan to Shrink, Decarcerate, and #buildCOMMUNITIES

#CLOSErikers leaders and partner organizations highlighted decarceration efforts of the past year as members lobbied at the state level for pretrial reforms through the #FREEnewyork campaign which secured expansive reform of bail, discovery, and speedy trial laws. Advocates will continue to call for the end of money bail for all charges. In addition, campaign members support parole reform through the #LessIsMoreNY Campaign.

Additionally, campaign members highlighted key demands to decarcerate New York City including: ending sentences of a year or less by expanding alternatives to incarceration and decriminalizing low-level charges; dismantling NYPD gang databases; and investing in communities according to the campaign’s #buildCOMMUNITIES platform.

The #CLOSErikers campaign plan is to

  1. SHRINK the jails system and improve conditions;
  2. DECARCERATE New York City;
  3. and #buildCOMMUNITIES through justice reinvestment that moves money from the criminal legal system to programs that support people and communities.

The Crucial Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) Process

The City Council vote this October regarding land use will determine maximum facility height and location, and will ultimately determine a clear timeline for closure. In order to secure closure of all 10 Rikers Island jails including the Boat, the #CLOSErikers campaign supports ULURP approval in the fall, with key conditions that will meet the above campaign demands. From now until the ULURP is approved, and continuing after, campaign members will ensure demands developed by directly impacted leaders continue to drive closure and decarceration on their terms.

Campaign Leaders and Partners Said the Following:

“The plan to #CLOSErikers and #buildCOMMUNITIES, led by people most harmed by Rikers, would shrink the system, decarcerate further than the City has planned, improve treatment and conditions, ensure new facilities are not operated or managed by the DOC, and set us on a path to free up billions of dollars from the DOC and other law enforcement agencies to be invested into communities. While we continue to elevate our demands, we recognize that the Land Use process we are currently in is a vital step toward achieving the imminent closure of Rikers Island. While we have lots of work to do before we get there, today we acknowledge the powerful movement and organizing it’s taken to get here.” – DeAnna R. Hoskins, President and CEO, JustLeadershipUSA

“As a person who was jailed on Rikers, I know how dehumanizing and harmful it is for the women, men, and trans people detained there. It is time to close Rikers Island once and for all. The justice system in New York City must be wholly transformed, and the City must dramatically cut down the number of people in detention. At the state level, we’ve just won bail reform, which will drop jail populations significantly. The Legislature and Governor should now immediately pass the Less is More Act to reduce the number of people on parole who are detained on Rikers. Today we remind our city officials – not just the Mayor, but the City Council, Borough Presidents, Community Boards, Comptroller, Public Advocate, and District Attorneys – that directly impacted communities demand they heed our call and together work to swiftly, and finally, close this disaster we call Rikers Island.” – Donna Hylton, Director of the Women and Girls Project at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice

“Through the organizing of directly impacted women, service organizations, and advocates that have led the Beyond Rosies Campaign, in partnership with #CLOSErikers, we moved the City to alter their facility design of scattering small groups of women among four facilities primarily serving men, to a centralized site for women so they can receive trauma-informed care and specialized services to meet their unique needs. And, with respect to women and the needs of the LGBTQ community, we have just begun the fight to ensure that standalone facilities are created and that the transportation needs of this population are met.” – Kandra Clark, Associate Vice President, Exodus Transitional Community

“#CLOSErikers grew out of the pain and suffering of mostly black and brown people in Rikers Island led by amazing, directly-impacted leaders who insisted on changing policy, rewriting narratives and, yes, saving lives. At the three-year mark, we can say this campaign has made tangible what was previously thought as unattainable. LatinoJustice PRLDEF was with JLUSA when this started and we stand with them in solidarity today. Close Rikers now and reinvest in our communities!” – Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF

“One in five Americans are affected by mental health concerns. Many of these individuals will attempt to self-medicate without seeking treatment, often due to a lack of adequate, affordable treatment in their communities. Instead of assisting them during their crisis, we incarcerate them at rapid rates, and then in turn, when they express signs of decompensation or withdrawal, they are ignored – or even punished with isolation – rather than provided care. The Department of Correction is not suitable to oversee human beings in need of skilled treatment providers” – Ms. V (Victoria Phillips), Community, Health and Justice Organizer, Mental Health Project of the Urban Justice Center

“Today, we celebrate the incredible and tireless work of the directly impacted people, public defenders, and advocates who have helped lead the charge on reducing the number of people held at Rikers and moving us closer to the goal of closing it altogether. Rikers Island is a monument to a backwards system that jails presumptively innocent people, and we will not rest until we empty every jail and every bed.” – Justine Olderman, Bronx Defenders

“Right now, New York City has an opportunity to fully overhaul the administration of justice in New York City. As chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure we fulfill our promise to not only close Rikers Island, but build a more just future for all New Yorkers. Thank you to JustLeadershipUSA for its continued commitment to #CLOSErikers.” – Council Member Keith Powers

“Reimagining our city’s criminal justice system demands the closure of Riker’s Island, which is antiquated, unsafe, and inhumane. In order to achieve this goal, we must move towards community-based facilities that will allow detained individuals to be closer to their families and receive quality services. By simultaneously reducing our city’s carceral footprint and investing in communities, New York City can serve as a model for criminal justice reform. On the three year anniversary of the #CLOSErikers campaign, I thank JustLeadershipUSA for their tremendous advocacy and for always centering and amplifying the voices of directly impacted people.”   – Council Member Diana Ayala

“Today’s third anniversary of the Close Rikers campaign serves as a powerful reminder that this movement does not begin or end with one single plan or person — it’s driven by a citywide coalition of advocates, community leaders and everyday New Yorkers who share the urgent commitment to invest in communities and create a fairer justice system for all. While this work is far from over, I thank these advocates for their tireless efforts to get us to this critical moment, and I look forward to working with them to secure even more reforms at the City level and hear their feedback throughout the public review process.” – Council Member Margaret S. Chin

“Our criminal justice system has for generations unfairly punished the poor and communities of color. We are in a moment of time where we can show our commitment to addressing those past wrongs by ensuring a fairer system that focuses on the needs of the community. We must get this right, which is why I am a proud supporter of the #CloseRikers movement.” – Council Speaker Corey Johnson


Led by directly impacted communities and in partnership with more than 150 organizations, the #CLOSErikers campaign fights to close the Rikers jail complex and #buildCOMMUNITIES.