The Huffington Post published an article It’s Time to Close Rikers, by Glenn Martin, Founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA, discussing the event Rikers Island: Reform it or Shut it Down? hosted at The New School and co-sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs, JustLeadershipUSA, and the Humanities Action Lab:
“Last week, my organization, JustLeadershipUSA joined the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School in hosting a major forum about the future of Rikers Island, New York City’s long-troubled jail complex. With an impressive speaker list – including NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and former NYC Correction Commissioner Martin Horn — and nearly 500 attendees including government officials and media, the forum represented an important step in the movement to close Rikers and fix the City’s broken criminal justice system.
“Rikers Island and its 10 jail complexes loom over the East River, where they remain largely out of sight, if not out of mind. But on any given day, nearly 10,000 New Yorkers languish there, exposed to a “deep-seated culture of violence,” in the words ofa report issued last year by the US Attorney for the Southern District of NY. People who are held on Rikers — the majority without being convicted of a crime and simply because they can’t afford bail — must survive barbaric conditions. Many don’t survive at all. Jason Echevvaria and Carlos Mercado both died on Rikers. Victor Woods went into a violent seizure while a guard sat watching him and drinking a cup of coffee. Since 2010, stabbings and slashings have doubled. In 2014 alone, ten peopled died.
“…when I attended Bill de Blasio’s Mayoral Inauguration on January 1, 2014[,] I joined hundreds of other New Yorkers braving unbelievably frigid temperatures to watch the City usher in a new era. The Mayor’s words brought hope to the audience as he spoke about the Tale of Two Cities in NYC: “We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.” The more he mentioned the Tale of Two Cities, the more I wondered whether he understood that there was a third city: Rikers Island, a place where human beings, including children like Kalief Browder, are robbed of their sanity, their dignity, their families, their communities and sometimes, their lives.”