Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

 

Rikers Island

Rikers Island

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    Elizabeth Ford of Health + Hospitals, left, & Becky Scott of DOC (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    City Council members on Monday held an oversight hearing to examine how New York prevents formerly incarcerated mentally ill persons from returning to jail. The hearing made clear that the de Blasio administration, Health + Hospitals public hospital system, and City Council members all want to reduce the number of mentally ill persons who rely on the jail system for their mental health care and keep those with serious mental illness out of jail

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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.

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    (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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  • remarks conf

    Jonathan Lippman, one of the authors (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council)


    The New York State Legislature recently passed a landmark suite of criminal justice reforms that will profoundly re-shape the justice system in New York. Among other things, the reforms should help recalibrate the balance of power between prosecutors and defense attorneys and accelerate the effort to close the notorious jail complex on Rikers Island.

    A recent analysis found that by reducing the use of bail, the legislative reforms would result in the release of more than 40% of the

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  • Corey Johnson criminal justice speech

    Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced on Thursday a package of proposals aimed at reforming New York City’s criminal justice system to be more fair and equitable, building on changes championed by progressive politicians and advocates in New York and Albany over the last several years.

    Johnson presented a vision of criminal justice in New York based on refocusing the system away from incarceration and expanding the tools available to pursue his

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    Speaker Corey Johnson, one of the authors, with Mayor de Blasio (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


    Three years ago, the idea of closing the nine jails on Rikers Island was widely considered impossible. But in April 2017, after an intense campaign by advocates and the findings of an independent commission convened by former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and chaired by Judge Jonathan Lippman, Mayor de Blasio committed to the goal.

    Today, we are within hailing distance.

    The starting point for closing the Rikers jails is

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  • city council rikers jail coreyjohnson

    Speaker Johnson, the author (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)


    In New York, you can be locked up based on purported evidence that isn’t even disclosed to you, until a trial that can be postponed indefinitely, unless you are wealthy enough to pay your way out. That is the reality under our state’s antiquated laws governing cash bail, discovery, and speedy trial. With Democrats truly controlling both houses of the state Legislature and the governorship for the first time in decades, we now have a meaningful opportunity to

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    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
    Find the rest of the series here

    Riding high on the crest of a Democratic blue wave powered by grassroots progressives, New York Democrats finally took back the state Senate

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  • melinda katz ribbon mass bail out

    (photo: Office of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz [CJ])


    The Mass Bail Out action is currently underway, attempting to post bail for women and youth on Rikers Island and in city jails throughout New York. At last count, there were about 243 women held in jail because they cannot afford bail -- not because they’ve been proven guilty of their charges. We think this is an incredible and necessary effort rooted in the quest for justice. 

    The only legal reason to hold a person on bail is to ensure they

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  • whats the data point


    What's The [Data] Point? Episode 52 -- 5,000, with Liz Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

    glazer elizabeth pod...

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    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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  • Rikers jails to jobs

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


    Judith is a newly-minted head chef. She had previously been a line cook, and was nervous about interviewing for a job running her own kitchen, but decided to take the plunge after some convincing. When it came time to speak to the hiring manager, Judith, in her own self-assessment, “killed it.”

    Before Judith was head chef, before she was a line cook, before she knew kitchen skills, she was incarcerated. But it was her time in “Rosie,” the Rose M. Singer women’s jail on Rikers Island, that placed

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    Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


    June 5, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Criminal Justice Reform in New York

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    The Fortune Society is on the front lines in the fight to keep people out of jail, help those leaving jail successfully reenter larger society, advocate for criminal justice reforms, and make sure that

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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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  • mayor depart cc ponte rikers island

    (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    The City of New York, like many cities and states across the country, profits from people experiencing poverty who come into contact with the criminal justice system. New York imposes a plethora of fees on persons charged with and/or convicted of a crime or minor infraction, ranging from a fee to support the DNA Bank, to an incarceration fee, to a fee for parole or probation.

    Among the most egregious of these fees involve phone calls in New York City jails. New York City

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  • Keith Powers Rikers Island

    City Council Member Keith Powers (photo: John McCarten)


    Last week, members of the New York City Council’s Committee on Criminal Justice toured Rikers Island to see for themselves the conditions at the problem-plagued jail complex, which is slated for closure within the next ten years. It was the first visit for the new chair of the committee, Council Member Keith Powers, who spoke with Gotham Gazette about what he and his colleagues saw, their conversations with detainees and corrections officers, and the issues it moved him to

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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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  • whats the data point


    What's The Data Point? Episode 22 -- 10, with Michael Jacobson [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

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    Michael Jacobson is the executive director of the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance and is involved in efforts to close the Rikers Island jail complex. Previously, he

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  • martin 10 years sucks via close rikers

    Glenn Martin & JustLeadershipUSA (photo: @GlennEMartin)


    New Yorkers depend on City Council hearings to hold agencies accountable and to demand transparency from the mayor’s administration. On Monday, what the City Council members of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee got instead was a dismissive attitude cushioned in lofty rhetoric from a mayor’s office that seems unwilling or unable to make closing the jails on Rikers Island a priority.

    Time after time, representatives from Mayor Bill de

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  • de Blasio Rikers jail

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


    Due to the work many have done to illuminate the dehumanization and torture rampant on Rikers Island, city officials are finally proposing tangible steps to shut it down. This Monday, December 4, the New York City Council will hear testimony on progress being made toward closing the Rikers Island jails. Much of the discussion around closing Rikers jails, sure to continue Monday, centers on reducing the overall jail population in the city, but also on replacing available jail

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  • mmv hearing john mccarten city council

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


    [Note: this article has been updated based on fluctuations in the City Council calendar]

    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

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  • faulkner stringer comptroller debate election

    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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  • 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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    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

    de blasio rikers ponte officer

    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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