Gotham Gazette

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Rikers Island

Rikers Island

  • We Don’t Need a ‘Plan B,’ Mayor Adams; New York City Needs You to Shut Rikers Down

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


    As the crisis on Rikers Island continues and the death toll soars, Mayor Eric Adamstold New Yorkers last week that there needs to be a “plan B” for the city’s plan to shutter the notorious jail complex, suggesting he may not close Rikers at all. This

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  • Max Politics Podcast: Experts Call for a Federal Receiver for Rikers Island

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


    August 19, 2022 - Experts Call for a Federal Receiver for Rikers Island

    New York City criminal justice system veterans Elizabeth Glazer and Vincent Schiraldi joined the show to discuss their experience working in city government, the crisis at Rikers Island jails and what do about it and other problems plaguing the city's larger safety ecosystem.

    Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter @TweetBenMax. You can listen

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  • To Address the Crisis at Rikers, Invest in Public Health Now

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


    July 15, 2022 marked the day that 34-year-oldMichael Lopez died of an overdose...

  • The Mayor’s Mission and the Mess at Rikers

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


    The U.S. criminal justice system is at a crossroads. After the killing of George Floyd, there werebipartisan

    My Son’s Pretrial Incarceration Shows Everything Wrong with the System

    "Rikers is a death sentence" (photo: Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit)


    If you listen tothe NYPD Commissioner, you would think that after bail reform was passed in 2019, everyone was released from jail and judges lost all power to send people there. I know from painful personal experience that is false.

    Thousands of people are still

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  • ‘A City Everyone Can See Themselves In’: Carlina Rivera Launches Bid for New York's New 10th Congressional District

    City Council Member Carlina Rivera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    City Council Member Carlina Rivera is running for Congress in New York’s newly-drawn 10th congressional district, jumping into what is looking like a crowded August Democratic primary that is all but certain to determine who winds up with the seat in the heavily-Democratic district spanning parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

    Rivera, who was raised on the Lower East Side and represents that neighborhood and others in City Council District 2 in Manhattan, announced her congressional candidacy June 1 and ...

  • Closing the Pipeline that Feeds the Disaster of Rikers

    Mayor Adams makes a youth employment announcement (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


    As people who are deeply involved in our communities, we are the first to understand the value of safety and peace. We have lost loved ones to gun violence and crime, and have lived through the failed policies of over-policing. We acknowledge the rapid increase of both of these since May 2020, two months after the lockdowns that shut down our flourishing communities. The lockdowns have caused a documented increase in addiction, suicide,...

  • ‘When we line up behind issues they’re going to get over the finish line’: City Council Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs on Priorities and Positioning

    Lincoln Restler & Shahana Hanif (photos: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)


    The newly-seated 51-member New York City Council has a particularly large progressive wing, with a whopping 34 members, including Speaker Adrienne Adams, signing up for the Progressive Caucus. That caucus, which seeks to pull the Council leftward and is already acting as a counterweight to a more moderate mayor, especially on policing issues, is led by co-chairs Shahana Hanif and Lincoln Restler, two Brooklyn Democrats selected by their fellow caucus members.

    Solving The Crisis of Rikers Now and In The Future

    Outside Rikers Island jails (photo: Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit)


    Rikers Island is a devastatingly terrible investment. New York City spends more on jails than anywhere else in the country – over $500,000 per person per year. Yet, violence rates dwarf those elsewhere.

    The jails on Rikers Island are decrepit beyond repair. Their crumbling walls are turned into weapons. Built mostly on decaying landfill, the jails are plagued by methane leaks and asbestos. Working conditions for staff, and morale, are abysmal.

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  • ‘What We Don't Measure We Don't Manage’: Brad Lander on Top Priorities as the New NYC Comptroller

    Comptroller Lander and Mayor Adams in their prior roles (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, a progressive Brooklyn Democrat, is getting situated in his new role, which he calls the city’s “chief accountability officer.” As the comptroller, Lander’s citywide perch gives him a series of largely fiscal responsibilities mandated by the city Charter, including as a fiduciary to the public pension funds, a watchdog over city government finances, and the auditor-in-chief of city agencies.

    New York State is Failing at Jail Oversight; Here’s How We Start to Fix It

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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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  • We Need Eric Adams to be the Mayor Who Closes 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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  • 'I'm Very Social Services Oriented': Diana Ayala on Mental Health Policy, Running for City Council Speaker, and More

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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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  • Rikers Crisis Renews Push for State Bill to Create 'Correctional Ombudsman' and Oversight Board

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    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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  • How New York City Ended Mass Incarceration for 30 Days and Could Do It Again

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    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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  • Health and Safety for Everyone: Former City Jail Physicians on the Crisis at Rikers and Beyond

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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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  • New York Must Act to Protect Transgender Incarcerated People

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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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  • ‘The Mayor Should Be There’: Council Member Powers on Rikers Oversight, & Running for Speaker

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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, ...

  • Ending the Crisis on Rikers Island

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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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  • Max Politics Podcast: City Council Member Keith Powers on Oversight of City Jails, Running for Speaker, & More

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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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  • The Next Mayor Must Stick with the Plan to Close The Boat, and Rikers

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    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 ...

  • Closing Rikers Must Remain A Priority, and We Can Do It Without Building New Jails

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    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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  • Plan for Ending Solitary Confinement in City Jails is Imminent, Board of Correction Chair Says

  • De Blasio Administration Fails to Provide Proper Reentry Services for Those Leaving Jail Amid Pandemic, Providers Say

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    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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  • Covid Must Change How We Handle Rikers and the Future of Jails in New York City

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    Council Member Carline Rivera, the author (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


    Like most New Yorkers who lived through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am still reeling from the trauma and chaos we experienced this spring. But until I set foot on Rikers Island last week, I had an incomplete understanding of what the true horrors of COVID-19 were for some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.

    At the height of the pandemic, Rikers saw an infection ...