On Wednesday, I attended “Mass Story,” an interactive lab put on by Piper Anderson at Create-Forward, Pam’s organization – JustLeadershipUSA, and Humanities Action Lab. I got to hear first-hand stories from formerly incarcerated individuals about their experiences at Rikers. And by the end, I became intimate with the issue.
I was also forced to confront my identity as a New Yorker, and forced to consider my duties as an American citizen.
The basic stats are important to know: that 80% of detainees at Rikers are awaiting trial, not yet convicted of a crime; that many misdemeanors can take more than 150 days to get resolved, and 500 days to get through to a jury; that it costs taxpayers $200k a year, per detainee; and that 40% of Rikers inmates are diagnosed with a mental illness, a number which grows the longer they’re detained.
There are currently around 8,000 people at Rikers. If you subtract people who are merely awaiting trial and those who need mental health treatment, you’re left with a number of people who could possibly be housed in other New York City facilities.