Mass Incarceration

Mayor Adams, Stop Stalling on Plan to Close Rikers

“Rikers Island will not be a essential establishment. There are plans and laws underway that can take away our neighbors and fellow New Yorkers off of Rikers and right into a smaller system borough-based services. This might carry households nearer to their family members, enhance situations for folks detained, and finish our over-reliance on incarceration.”

William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit

Elected officers and activists at a rally at Rikers Island in February 2022.

Final 12 months 19 folks died in NYC Division of Correction (DOC) custody, making it the deadliest 12 months in additional than a decade. Two weeks from late August to mid-September had been significantly lethal, and significantly disturbing for me.

I do know the toxicity that permeates Rikers Island. I spent two years there on the age of 16. I bear in mind arguments, fights, and tried suicides within the unit the place I lived. I as soon as noticed officers escort a girl down the corridor in a masks that jogged my memory of Hannibal Lector. However I by no means noticed or heard of so many deaths as there are actually. A keep at Rikers is usually a demise sentence for these affected by psychological well being issues. With poor assessments, psychological well being issues go undiagnosed, and with officers unaware of the signs, suicides are inevitable.

On Sept. 14, Kevin Bryan, 35, became the 14th person to die whereas below the supervision of correctional officers final 12 months. Bryan, detained for alleged housebreaking and coping with drug dependency on the time, was pronounced useless after a gaggle of males attacked him. Studies say that Bryan obtained away from his attackers, ran, and locked himself into a toilet assigned for officers, the place he hung himself. Bryan had solely been there per week.

Bryan’s demise got here slightly over two weeks after Michael Nieves, 40, slit his throat, and an officer watched him bleed out for 10 minutes earlier than getting any help. Nieves lingered for 4 days earlier than being taken off of life assist. He was arrested for housebreaking, arson, and different offenses and recognized with schizophrenic dysfunction. Nieves was despatched to a psychiatric hospital for analysis on two separate events and deemed unfit to face trial. He died earlier than his subsequent courtroom look.

Each deaths present that not solely is Rikers a demise lure, it’s the most important de facto psychological well being facility in New York State.

COVID has made Rikers Island a petri dish, each actually and figuratively. Staffing shortages occurred because the pandemic spread all through the power. Union officers have defended the officers, saying they had been exhausted from working time beyond regulation and morale was low. The psychological well being of everyone seems to be at stake. I can’t assist however consider what was happening in that officer’s thoughts to look at a person bleed out.

In 2017, after intense strain from immediately impacted folks and communities, Mayor Invoice de Blasio determined it was time to shut the failing jail advanced, and initiated a course of that culminated within the Metropolis Council approving a complete plan to shut the ten jails on Rikers, and their extension, The Boat, by 2027. In 2021, Metropolis Council adopted up by passing Renewable Rikers laws requiring the DOC to progressively flip over Rikers Island to the Division of Citywide Administrative Providers (DCAS) for use for inexperienced infrastructure. The regulation arrange a course of for transferring unused land and services twice a 12 months till Aug. 31, 2027, when all of the land should be transferred.

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