Prisoner on Rikers Island

Yep, you read that right. NYC’s largest prison complex, largely known for its malpractice and abuse of prisoners, is finally getting shut down. Rikers Island will be deconstructed to smaller city-wide borough prisons with stronger prison reform agendas over the next decade. This call to action came from a number of prison reformist, as well as a consistent public sentiment to break up the destructive prison monopoly. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, who originally was against the idea, declared an about-face last Friday, announcing his support of a Rikers Island deconstruct.

“New York City has always been better than Rikers Island,” De Blasio said. “I am proud to chart a course for our city that lives up to this reality.”

Kalief Browder, a 16 year old child with no prior offenses, spent three years at Rikers for allegedly stealing a backpack. He was repeatedly abused while incarcerated, his case never went to trial and he was eventually exonerated. Two years later, still dealing with the trauma from his experiences at Rikers, Kalief hung himself out of his family’s apartment window in the Bronx. Kalief isn’t alone, there are countless kids being held for nonviolent offenses simply because they can’t post bail.  While they kids are held fighting allegations, they also end up fighting for their lives.

To learn more about Kalief Browder’s story watch below:

Part of the newly proposed prison reform agenda suggest ending the practice of incarcerating those awaiting trial for nonviolent crimes and reclassifying some low-level offenses. Laws like these would  have prevented cases like Browders and countless others whose rights have been taking away simply because of accusations and the inability to post bail.

Rikers 10-year dismantle plan also includes getting the inmate population down from 10k to 5k over the next decade through implementing  ‘supervised release’ programs. Enacted, both laws would be a major step in the right direction for prison reform.

“Our success in reducing crime and reforming our criminal justice system has paved a path off Rikers Island and toward community-based facilities capable of meeting our criminal justice goals,” de Blasio said in his statement Friday.” Rikers Island is an example and an expression of a major national problem,” the mayor said. “The mass incarceration crisis did not being in New York City, but it will end here. We are going to end the era of mass incarceration by making this important change.”

You can read more about the deconstruct of Rikers Island and its proposed prison reform programs at USA Today .

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