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Rikers Island

Rikers Island

  • City Council Ends Term with Flurry of Oversight Hearings

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    Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    A flurry of oversight hearings are filling the City Council calendar as the Council enters its final month of the four-year session, most notably a hearing slated to address controversies over NYCHA’s falsified lead inspection reports, a hearing to discuss the city’s progress in closing Rikers Island jails, and a hearing on integrating the city's segregated public schools.

    More than a dozen

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  • Following Up with Comptroller Stringer on Several Debate Moments

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    Faulkner, left, and Stringer, at the Comptroller debate (photo via @NYCVotes)


    It appears that a relatively small number of people watched the lone debate in the election for New York City Comptroller, which occurred on Tuesday, October 17 between incumbent Democrat Scott Stringer and his Republican challenger, Michel Faulkner. It is one of three citywide races, along with those for Mayor and

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  • As We Close Rikers, Setting Our Sights on Essential State-Level Reforms

    Andrew Cuomo

    Gov. Cuomo at an update prison (Governor's Office)


    Anyone following New York City politics knows about JustLeadershipUSA’s mission to close the jails at Rikers Island. In less than a year, the #CLOSErikers campaign successfully pressured Mayor Bill de Blasio to commit to shuttering the jail complex. It is no longer a question of if Rikers will close, but when. But the campaign has always known that

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  • Rikers May Close. So Should Attica.

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    Governor Cuomo at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora (photo: Governor's Office Flickr)


    In much the same way that the movement to end stop-and-frisk policing eventually became a rallying cry for political hopefuls, so, too, has the appeal to close the Rikers Island jail complex now become de rigueur among New York City elected officials. Where though is the corresponding clarion call to close Attica, Sing Sing, or any number of New York State’s brutal and obsolete prisons?

    The

    Closing Rikers: Good Politics, Bad Policy

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    Mayor de Blasio on Rikers Island (photo: Mayor's Office)


    Mayor de Blasio's announcement that the city intends to close Rikers Island jails in 10 years has met a mainly celebratory response, even from seasoned criminal justice reformers. We advise that they, after years of good work in exposing the debilitating and sometimes brutal conditions in the Rikers jails, take a deep breath and apply a critical eye.

    The mayor's broad plan seems at least in part based on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon commission chaired by former

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  • De Blasio Pulled to Rikers Closure by Mark-Viverito, Activists

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    De Blasio at Rikers (photo: Mayor's Office)


    Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that he is putting into motion a planning process to close the jails on Rikers Island. The mayor, a first-term Democrat up for re-election this fall, was pulled somewhat begrudgingly to the politically- and fiscally-tenuous position by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who called for Rikers to be closed in her 2016 State of the City speech and formed a commission to create a plan to do so. That commission, led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, is set to

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  • State Electeds Insult City Criminal Justice While Reform in Albany is Minimal at Best

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    Gov. Cuomo at Dannemora correctional facility (photo: Governor's Office)


    Last week, State Senator Jesse Hamilton mailed a flier to his constituents strongly denouncing broken windows policing. The senator, who represents Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn, called on the city to end arrests for minor quality-of-life offenses that “are often used to police black and brown bodies.”

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  • Much Agreement on Need for Bail Reform, But Little Movement

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    On Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    There is an ongoing conversation in New York about how to fix the bail system that many agree is broken, keeping too many poor people in jail after they are arrested for low-level nonviolent offenses but cannot afford to post bond and, at times, allowing individuals back onto the street who are prone to violence but able to pay bail. Efforts at reform have been full of fits and starts.

    About a month ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced measures to make

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  • Leading the Way on Ending Punitive Segregation

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    Commissioner Ponte, the author, & Mayor de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Today, the New York City Department of Correction formally ended the practice of punitive segregation for young adults ages 19 through 21 years old, resulting in the complete elimination of punitive segregation, which some call solitary confinement, for inmates ages 16 through 21 in our custody. This is an unprecedented milestone in New York State correctional history and, even more important, across the nation. To date, no other city or state has

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  • Why We’re Marching to Close Rikers

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    Glenn Martin & others rally to #CLOSErikers (via JustLeadershipUSA)


    For years, New Yorkers have been barraged by stories of violence and corruption on Rikers Island. On Saturday, September 24, hundreds of New Yorkers -- including people who have spent time on Rikers Island and their families; criminal justice reform activists; faith leaders; and elected officials -- will march together and demand that Mayor de Blasio #CLOSErikers.

    Led by

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  • Key to Vision of Closing Rikers, City Council Bail Fund Moves Through State Process

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    Mark-Viverito delivers her State of the City (photo: William Alatriste)


    Last year, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled her plan for a fund that would cover bail for poor individuals charged with low-level criminal offenses who would otherwise be forced to wait in a city jail for their court date. The Council dedicated $1.4 million of budget funds to back the project, which is nearing

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  • The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 29-March 4

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    photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


    Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday March 4, 2016

    PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio and City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. visit Bed-Stuy businesses, via William Alatriste;

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  • The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 15-19

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    photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


    Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday February 19

    PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio celebrates the launch of the LinkNYC wifi hubs, via The Mayor's Office; Governor Cuomo rallies to promote paid

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  • Stringer Joins Calls to Shut Down Rikers

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    Stringer at The New School (photo via @scottmstringer)


    Giving keynote remarks at an event focused on Rikers Island jails, city Comptroller Scott Stringer added his voice to calls for shutting down the troubled complex.

    “Right now, Rikers Island is a case study in poor outcomes,” Stringer said, presenting...

  • Will New York Be Last to 'Raise the Age'?

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    Gov. Cuomo meets with young inmates (photo: Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo is fond of calling New York a "progressive leader," declaring the state trailblazing on issues that matter, like marriage equality and gun control. It is a tenet of the governor's new push for an eventual $15-per-hour minimum wage.

    However, New York lags so far behind other states on one criminal justice issue that it could soon be the only state in

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  • Inmate Bill of Rights Among New Wave of Rikers Reforms

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    Mayor de Blasio at Rikers Island (photo: Mayor's Office)


    The New York City Council passed eight bills last week in an effort to mandate greater transparency into and oversight of the Department of Correction and to reduce violence within the city's jails. All are expected to soon be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, with the package part of ongoing reforms aimed at changing the culture at Rikers Island and other jail facilities run by the city.

    One of the bills (...

  • Proposed Rikers Visitation Rules Stir Debate

    Johnny Perez of the Jails Action Coalition

    Johnny Perez of the Jails Action Coalition (photos: Meg O'Connor) 


    On Tuesday, City Council members, faith leaders, and activists spoke out against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed restrictions for visitors to Rikers Island jails. At a rally on the steps of City Hall organized by the Jails Action Coalition, speakers called de Blasio’s plan to limit visitors and physical contact by those who do visit inmates counterproductive and wrong.

    The proposed visitation limits were first

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  • Advocates Rally to Keep Solitary Confinement in Spotlight

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    A rally to reform solitary confinement rules (photo: @NYCAIC)


    Last November he United Nations committee on torture found that the United States was not in compliance with its Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment because of excessive use of solitary confinement in prisons across the country.

    The UN found that use of solitary confinement of over 15 days amounts to torture. Nearly

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  • Cuomo's Executive Action on 'Raise the Age' Prompts Questions

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    Cuomo at a February event in Brooklyn (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


    "In my opinion, it is too early to condemn a 16-year-old to a life without redemption," Governor Andrew Cuomo said as he toured the Coxsackie Correctional Facility in May. It is a sentiment many advocates and legislators share. And yet, with the 2015 legislative session in the history

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  • License to Carry: New York's Gun Permit Laws

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    Gov. Cuomo signs the SAFE Act, Jan. 2013 (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


    Riders on a Brooklyn-bound 4 train fled in terror when a man responded to taunts from two younger men by pulling a gun and loading a clip. As the confrontation escalated and the train stopped, the melee spilled into the Borough Hall station, with threats and shoving until Gilbert Drogheo, one of the younger men, was lying dead of a

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  • The Week Ahead in New York Politics, June 22

    New York City Hall

    New York City Hall


    What to watch for this week in New York politics:

    ALBANY, ALBANY: Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie agreed on a short, retroactive extension of rent regulations through Tuesday. As negotiations continue on the rent regulations and other top of the agenda priority issues like mayoral control of city schools, legislators are due back in Albany on Tuesday. By

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  • City Council Ready to Act on Bail Reform, Alone if Necessary

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    CM Lancman & Speaker Mark-Viverito at Wednesday's hearing (photo: William Alatriste) 


    Wednesday’s oversight hearing made it clear— the question is not if the City Council will move to reform the city’s bail system, but how much reform will they be able to accomplish with their somewhat limited power.

    Though the Council appears

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  • Reforming Solitary Confinement At The City's Biggest Psych Ward — Rikers Island

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    NEW YORK — After about three days of being isolated in “the Box” away from his fellow detainees at Rikers Island, Ismael Nazario was beginning to break.

    "That's when it started to take it's toll,” he said, conjuring memories of his time in punitive segregation — solitary confinement — in

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