Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

 

jails

jails

  • costas consta attends

    Council Member Costa Constantinides, the author (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


    Nothing in New York City’s or our country’s history says we’re good at running jails. 

    For hundreds of years, we have cast detainees away to far-flung islands. Out of sight, out of mind. Mostly black and brown men. Overwhelmingly, without having even been convicted of a crime. 

    So, the recent skepticism to build a jail in the heart of my beloved Queens is justifiable. After countless meetings with criminal justice advocates, many among them previously jailed

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  • mmv red cross

    Melissa Mark-Viverito, the author (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


    For decades, Rikers Island has served as a clear illustration of our nation’s willingness to turn a blind eye in the face of injustice. Home to decades of violence, corruption, and cruelty, the continued operation of Rikers Island jails has been a striking reminder that our justice system is anything but just. 

    Activists, grassroots organizers, impacted individuals, elected officials, and many other New Yorkers have been demanding the closure of Rikers jails for decades,

    ...
  • Rikers jails de Blasio

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


    The narrow bridge to Rikers Island still puts a knot in my stomach. In the late 1980s, I spent two years behind bars in one of the eight active jails on Rikers. Back then, crossing that bridge meant disappearing from society and entering a world defined by violence and inhumanity.

    Little has changed. These days, I visit Rikers regularly as vice chair of the Board of Correction, the independent oversight body for New York City jails, and as executive vice president of the Fortune Society, an

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  • De Blasio close Rikers

    De Blasio, Johnson, Ayala & others at Rikers announcement (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    The plan to close the Rikers Island jails and replace them with four borough-based facilities has sped through the city’s land use process and is awaiting approval from the New York City Council, prompting both support and rebukes from criminal justice reform activists and those who prefer to keep most city detainees on the island. If it passes at the scheduled October 17 vote, full implementation of the plan will fall in the hands of a future mayor, perhaps two,

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  • cm mar chin

    (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


    “To be clear is to be kind, to be unclear is to be unkind.” – Brené Brown

    On August 2, 2018, I attended a meeting at Chung Pak, the affordable senior housing complex on Baxter Street, where the city presented its plans to build a huge new jail in Chinatown. I and other highly-vetted attendees watched a slideshow of what 80 Centre Street would become after it is converted from the county courthouse and district attorney’s office to a 50-story jail with coffee shops and retail trinket stores on the ground floor.

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  • comm ublic hearings

    (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    While not surprising from a political perspective given Mayor de Blasio's support for the plan, the City Planning Commission's recent vote to approve the very costly (about $9 billion current estimate) construction of new jails for the worthy purpose of closing the deeply inhumane facilities on Rikers Island was wrong and wrong-headed.

    As the City Council now considers the four-jail plan, one in each borough but Staten Island, it should recognize that the city can take the much smarter and cheaper course:

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  • rikers island google3

    (photo: imagery ©2019 Bluesky, Maxar Technologies, Sanborn, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2019 via Google Maps fair use policy)


    As an organizer directly impacted by incarceration, I often ask fellow New Yorkers that have been previously incarcerated to imagine what it would feel and look like for our communities to have the resources we need to remain in our neighborhoods and thrive.

    Our work will solidify New York City as the most decarcerated big city in the U.S. We have done the difficult work of significantly decarcerating New York

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  • m bdb dcc joseph ponte

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Not long ago, closing the Rikers Island jails was a radical idea. Today, however, less than four years after we launched the #CLOSErikers campaign, New Yorkers have reached political and popular consensus that closing the jail complex is morally imperative. Yet, they are increasingly opposed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s visionless approach to executing this important mission. Today I write to join that opposition.

    The purpose of the #CLOSErikers campaign was not only to shut down a horrific penal colony,

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  • jail construction

    (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


    “Life in the fairest big city in America should never feel impossible,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, touting his agenda for the coming year during his annual State of the City speech this past January.

    But just a few blocks from where de Blasio works every day at City Hall, a health crisis brought on by the mayor’s own jails proposal could soon make life increasingly unfair,

    ...
  • bk jail rendering mocj

    (image: mayor's office rendering of new Brooklyn jail)


    July 17, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: City Plan to Replace Rikers Island Jails Moves Ahead

    Tyler Nims, executive director of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, also known as the Lippman Commission, joined the show to discuss the city's plan to close the Rikers Island jails and replace some of the inmate and detainee capacity with four local jails, one in each borough other than Staten Island. He

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  • Lippman Rikers

    Jonathan Lippman (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    As the city eyes sites for the four borough-based jails that will replace the Rikers Island jail complex, some residents have sounded off concerns about negative impacts they believe local facilities may have on their neighborhoods. A new analysis may assuage some of those worries, finding that detention facilities in New York City have not, historically, had observable impacts on neighborhood property values or crime rates.

    ...

  • mayor cm vanessa gibson bdb

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    If you would have told New Yorkers seven years ago that the jails on Rikers Island would be closing, they would have not believed you.

    Until recently, shutting down the infamous complex was roundly dismissed as a radical idea that was not likely to be achieved during our lifetimes. However, what was once a dream for many people is now closer to becoming reality due to the hard work of brave New York City advocates and a number of forward-thinking organizations who have worked tirelessly to

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  • rdjr sotb

    Ruben Diaz Jr. (photo: Victor Chu/Bronx BP)


    Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is in favor of closing the jails on Rikers Island but vehemently opposed to the joint de Blasio administration-City Council plan for a new jail site in the Bronx. Diaz Jr. isn’t against a new jail in his borough. Instead, he wants the city to use a different location, closer to the courthouse where defendants must appear, but that city officials say is less workable than their chosen site.

    Diaz Jr. made his case during ...

  • rikers renditions

    Jail space rendering via "Justice in Design"


    The first part of the plan is clear: the jails on Rikers Island will be closed. Less

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  • De Blasio Rikers Bronx Jail

    Mayor de Blasio on Rikers (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Closing Rikers Island jails is the right decision for New York City, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of a thriving community. The Concourse neighborhood in the West Bronx has experienced a renaissance in recent years. Densely packed blocks of tenants and homeowners, public and parochial schools, libraries and mom-and-pop shops surround a glut of municipal uses. Shoehorning a 25-story, 1,500-bed jail into this neighborhood would be a significant and lasting mistake, one that would

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  • Bronx jail site NYPD tow pound

    Planned Bronx jail site (photos: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


    When Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced last week that they’d reached a deal to speed up the closure of Rikers Island by creating or expanding jail facilities in every borough except Staten Island, it seemed to be a clear sign of a productive partnership between the administration and local elected officials.

    The mayor and speaker made the announcement at a news conference at City Hall, alongside four Council members -- Diana Ayala, Karen

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  • Rikers Island guards

    (photo via The Mayor's Office)


    When a head injury occurs in any of New York City’s 12 jails, no one bats an eye, according to Jonathan Stenger. “It’s accepted,” said Stenger, who was formerly incarcerated on Rikers Island and now works with inmates in the city’s jails through the Osborne Association. “People are just used to it.”

    Quantifying these incidents for the first time, ...