Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

jails

jails

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    Inside Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    In 1894, the framers of New York’s most recent constitution created the State Commission of Correction. With eight members, the Commission was empowered to visit and inspect all penal institutions in New York State and to promote their “humane and efficient administration.”

    Clearly, they are failing: New York’s correctional institutions are neither “humane or efficient” today. Rikers

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    Eric Adams at church (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Throughout his campaign, Mayor Eric Adams spoke about the dysfunction that plagues our city, stemming from a failure to go ‘upstream’ to address the problems we face. There is no more tragic example of this than Rikers Island, where conditions are so dire that hundreds of incarcerated people have launched a hunger strike.

    The moral costs of this stain

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    Council Member Diana Ayala (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)


    The New York City Council Speaker should be someone who deeply understands people’s struggles and will take a social services focus to the powerful leadership position, argues City Council Member Diana Ayala.

    During a recent appearance on the Max Politics podcast from Gotham Gazette, Ayala discussed her experience representing the 8th Council District, which includes East Harlem and

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  • less is more

    Gov. Hochul signs the Less Is More Act (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    The state of New York took a moral step recently when Governor Hochul signed into law the Less Is More Act, which aims to soften the draconian parole laws that have disproportionately harmed people of color. Nearly 200 New Yorkers re-joined their families as soon as the bill became law, freeing them from

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  • 1 rikers ombudsman

    Cleaning up at Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    The deaths this year of 14 people held on Rikers Island and recent reports of inhumane conditions have renewed attention on the dereliction of one of the country's largest municipal jail systems.

    That includes from the lead sponsor of a bill in the state Legislature that would create an oversight board and statewide ombudsperson with jurisdiction over local jails and state prisons. The bill's

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  • rikers doc tours

    Mayor de Blasio on Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Just over a year ago, the city of New York did something special, a monumental achievement not seen since the end of World War II. In May of 2020, for the first time since 1946, the average daily population (ADP) of city jails dropped below 4,000.

    A combination that included the plan toward a reduced-capacity borough-based jail system, significant bail reform taking accused people’s ability to pay into account, and transitional housing facilities like the ones

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    A 'jails to jobs' event (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    The humanitarian crisis at Rikers Island is alarming. Criminal justice reform advocates and elected officials are right to demand an end to the violence, death, and chaos. Governor Kathy Hochul deserves praise for ordering the release of nearly 200 detainees. 

    But what happens to New Yorkers after they leave Rikers and other correctional facilities?

    That’s a key question few in public life are asking.

    Here’s the reality: New Yorkers seeking to re-enter our

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    Mayor de Blasio & company make an announcement (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    What is going on at Rikers Island? As former physicians on Rikers Island and in other city jails, we have been horrified to hear of the unsafe, unhygienic, violent, and deadly conditions there. Over 12 people have died this year alone. To prevent more suffering and death, courts need to release thousands of people immediately and to stop sending more people in.

    Despite limitations associated with the jail setting, we worked hard to provide excellent medical

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    Lights honoring transgender New Yorkers (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)


    When I learned that a transgender woman was incarcerated with men on Rikers Island last week, it hit close to home for me. I know from experience what it feels like to be a transgender woman in jail surrounded by men. It's a mix of trauma, fear, and humiliation.

    There are far too many stories of transgender

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    Council Member Keith Powers (photo: City Council)


    City Council Member Keith Powers has the crisis in the city’s Rikers Island jail complex directly on his plate. The Manhattan Democrat is chair of the Council’s Committee on Criminal Justice and therefore responsible for one key layer of oversight of city jails.

    Just after convening an emergency meeting about conditions on Rikers with several key city officials and ahead of chairing a formal City Council oversight hearing on the subject, ...

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    Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    There is a humanitarian crisis unfolding right before our very eyes on Rikers Island. The conditions that incarcerated individuals and staff are subjected to at the city’s jail complex — conditions that have been reported and documented by news accounts and the personal observations of many of my colleagues in government — are on par with, perhaps even worse than, what we expect to read about in countries without a commitment to human rights.

    As my colleague Assembly Member

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    City Council Member Keith Powers (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)


    September 8, 2021 - Max Politics Podcast: City Council Member Keith Powers on Oversight of City Jails & More

    City Council Member Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Council's criminal justice committee, joined the show to discuss the crisis in city jails and the steps he's taking and monitoring to improve conditions, including an emergency stakeholder meeting he coordinated and a Council oversight hearing he will soon chair. Powers also discussed efforts to

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  • dep corr rikers

    Mayor de Blasio at Rikers (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    June is Torture Awareness Month and it is also the month we both lost our siblings — Kalief Browder and Layleen Polanco — because of the torture of solitary confinement. No other family should ever have to go through the pain and torment our baby brother and baby sister suffered and we continue to suffer. Political leaders from New York City to Washington, D.C. have repeatedly invoked Kalief’s and Layleen’s names to promise to end solitary confinement. Now is the time they must

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    Council Member Karen Koslowitz (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    Queens’ Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, and Richmond Hill neighborhoods are losing their City Council member, Karen Koslowitz, who has served five terms over two stints but is again term-limited from seeking reelection. The District 29 race to succeed Koslowitz is flooded with nine Democrats running in this month’s primary, eight of whom are well-funded and offer substantial platforms. 

    The district, whose residents are 47.1% White, 27.7% Asian, 18.2% Hispanic, and 3.5%

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  • rikers will surv

    A rally for closing Rikers (photo: @CLOSErikers)


    The Vernon C Bain Correctional Facility, known as The Barge, or The Boat, has been getting some attention recently. Ava Duvernay and Laura Poitras recently discovered it, and mayoral candidate Eric Adams said he wants to ...

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


    New York’s state government, its counties, and municipalities altogether spent $18.2 billion in 2019 on police, jails, prisons, prosecutors, parole, and probation while only spending about $6.2 billion on mental health services, public health, youth programs and services, recreation, and elder services, according to a new report.

    The report, by the nonprofit Center for Community Alternatives, examined local, county, and state budgets to place into stark contrast the

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  • de Blasio prison reentry programming

    The mayor at a pre-pandemic jail to jobs (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    The COVID-19 pandemic has served as another reminder that New York is a tale of two cities. The wealthy and elite were largely able to sequester themselves safely during the height of the pandemic and resume city life once infection rates went down. Many may again be removing themselves as cases rise. But the most vulnerable New Yorkers are still left without basic supports and services.

    This is especially true for people released from city jails and

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    Gov. Cuomo visits a prison, pre-pandemic (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)


    While New York continues to expand the circle of groups eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, people living and working in correctional facilities are being left out of the equation, despite early commitments from the city's Health Department and the heightened risk of infection in those settings.

    With a limited supply of the vaccine, public health officials at the state and city levels have been developing a plan to prioritize populations that are most exposed

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  • solitary confinement jail cell


    We need to end solitary confinement in our city and state. Spending all day in a cell the size of an elevator can cause permanent brain damage. Common sense tells us this. Science confirms it. But only the words of someone who has been in solitary confinement can begin to explain it.

    “No one to talk to. Nothing to do. I did push-ups. I read the Bible. That’s it. For days.” That is the way my brother-in-law explained it to me. And the haunting look in his eyes –– years later –– conveyed more than words ever could.

    This is an issue of fundamental

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  • rikers form one

    Rikers Island (photo: formulanone)


    New York City’s historic commitment to closing the Rikers Island jail complex is in jeopardy. Thanks to an adverse court ruling, a struggling budget, and unfocused political leadership, Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build four new jails at a cost of $9 billion is endangered -- and so is the very idea of closing Rikers. In recent weeks, the discussion over Rikers closure has devolved into debates about real estate, and lost sight of the people and communities harmed by our medieval jail complex and broken criminal justice system.

    It’s

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  • crim just rel

    The mayor at a jails to jobs announcement (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    For Julio Medina, the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City was going to pose a unique set of challenges. As executive director at the Exodus Transitional Community, Medina focuses on support and services for the formerly incarcerated, or re-entry services. When Rikers Island became one of the most densely COVID-19-infected areas, the city released over 1,500 people either being detained pre-trial or toward the end of their short sentences. But, advocates and service-providers say, a

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  • 3 report positive impacts

    Mayor de Blasio makes an announcement (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Defendants in New York City's pretrial supervised release program are no more likely to miss court than people who have bail set and are not rearrested at a higher rate, according to a city-commissioned study by MDRC's Center for Criminal Justice Research being released Thursday.

    The research, contracted by the Mayor's Office of

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    Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


    New Yorkers are beyond tired of the tale of two mayors: one who claims to be committed to substantive reform of New York City’s criminal legal and jail systems and another who resists, delays, and undermines efforts to address the deep injustices of those same systems. The first mayor touts his support for closing Rikers Island jails, ending solitary confinement, and releasing people from jail at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak — though he came to these positions only under constant pressure

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    Governor Cuomo at a correctional facility (photo: governor's office)


    The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, and scores of Black Americans have once again put a spotlight on the brutality of policing in this country. But policing is only one part of a criminal legal system that was founded on dehumanizing and oppressing Black people. There are countless Black lives, including those of Kalief Browder, Layleen Polanco, Benjamin Smalls, and Lulu Benson-Seay, that have been taken away in jails, prisons, and detention centers across New York. Now is the time to

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