For decades, Rikers Island has been marked by violence and corruption. Stories regularly emerge documenting the abuse, brutality, and death in the institution. The #CLOSErikers campaign was formed in 2016 to break political gridlock and achieve solutions guided by directly impacted communities. Led by JustLeadershipUSA, in partnership with the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, the #CLOSErikers campaign includes community groups, researchers, business leaders, faith and human rights leaders, criminal justice experts, health and housing service providers, advocacy and legal groups, and more. Through the campaign, more than 135 organizations across New York City have joined the call to close Rikers Island. We are proud to now count Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform among those who support that call. By closing Rikers, New York City can focus on healing and rebuilding the communities where Rikers has brought suffering. The campaign to #CLOSErikers is calling for New Yorkers to boldly reimagine the city’s failed criminal justice system and become a national leader in ending mass incarceration.
This is the third of four briefs in a weekly series designed to highlight the persistent dysfunction on Rikers, a penal colony defined by its resistance to reform. The first brief focused on the isolation of the jails. The second brief describes the “culture of violence” at Rikers, and the third describes the deprivation of the jails. The final brief describes the environmental and architectural hazards of the facility and the entire series can be found on the CLOSErikers.org website.