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Katal New York Update- July 27, 2023

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Four Deaths at Rikers This Month

On Sunday, July 16th news broke that William Johnstone, who was incarcerated at the George R. Vierno Center jail on Rikers Island, passed away at age 47. Mr. Johnstone was legally innocent and incarcerated on a $40,000 bail while awaiting trial. See our statement in response. 

Less than one week later, on Sunday, July 23, Curtis Davis, who was incarcerated on Rikers Island, passed away at age 44. This is at least the 26th death in New York City jails since Mayor Eric Adams took office and the fourth death in July. The death of Curtis Davis comes the same week the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Damian Williams, called for a federal receiver, describing the situation at Rikers as “a collective failure with deep roots” and saying, “We cannot wait any longer for substantial progress to materialize.” 

Following the recent death, our lead organizer Melanie Dominguez and our leader Henry Robinson spoke to News12 at the entrance of Rikers and called on Mayor Adams to end the crisis by reducing the jails population and shutting down Rikers. See the interview here. 

We also put out a statement from our member Janelle Roberts, whose son is currently incarcerated at Rikers:

“I want to send my deepest condolences to all the families that have lost a loved one in NYC Jails. We have lost 26 lives at the hands of this Mayor and the Department of Corrections. Enough is enough. The conditions at Rikers are horrific. My son is 20 years old and has been detained at Rikers for a year now. As a mother, I cannot put into words how scared I am for him. I don’t sleep at night worrying about his safety. No parent wants to ever get a call to let them know that their child has been hurt or worse that they have died.”

Check out the full statement here. 

New Yorkers deserve safety and justice, not criminalization, racism, and the violence of Rikers. To join the fight to shut down Rikers, please contact Melanie Dominguez at or 516-588-0127.

Katal Confronts Mayor Adams About Rikers

On Thursday, July 20th we confronted Mayor Adams in downtown Brooklyn about the ongoing crisis at Rikers. The action was covered by Gothamist and Patch New York.

Following the confrontation with the Mayor, our director of advocacy Yonah Zeitz spoke with ABC News 7 about the need for a federal takeover to improve the conditions at Rikers until it is shut down.

If you would like to join us in any upcoming actions against the Mayor, please contact Melanie Dominguez at or 516-588-0127.

Close Rikers March and Rally on Thursday, August 10th

On Thursday, August 10th, we’re holding a Close Rikers march and rally to demand Mayor Adams shuts down Rikers and that the federal courts appoint a receiver to improve conditions until the deadly jail complex is shuttered once and for all. RSVP for the action here. 

Thursday, August 10th is the date of the next hearing in federal court about Rikers, where Judge Swain will hear an argument in favor of receivership. In recent weeks, calls have grown for a federal receiver to take over at Rikers. In addition to the U.S. Attorney, federal receivership is supported by Vincent Schiraldi, former NYC Correction Commissioner; Elizabeth Glazer, the former head of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice under Mayor de Blasio; and both NYC Comptroller Brad Lander and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Currently, over a dozen City Council members have co-sponsored a resolution that calls for a federal takeover at Rikers. See a full list of supports here. 

Join us ahead of the federal court hearing on Thursday, August 10 to demand that Mayor Adams: Shuts Down Rikers!

For more information on how to get involved, contact Melanie at by phone at (516) 588-0127.

Meet Our Summer Intern Taylor  

This summer we have several interns who are actively involved in organizing for actions, outreach, legislative advocacy, tabling, and much more! We’re highlighting our summer interns over the next few weeks. 

First up is Taylor, who has been part of our canvassing program, hitting thousands of doors, making thousands of phone calls, conducting research, and even producing graphics to explain the role of a federal receiver. Taylor has been with us since early June and wraps up her internship this week. She’s off to law school in the fall. Please join us in thanking Taylor for her work this summer and wishing her all the best in law school! 

If you’re interested in interning with us, please reach out to Alycia Gay, Director of Operations, at

Katal Quotes of the Week

These are some of the quotes we’re thinking about this week.

“Hope and grief can co-exist, and if we wish to transform the world, we must learn to hold and process both simultaneously. That process will, as ever, involve reaching for community.” –Kelly Hayes and Mariame Kaba, Let this Radicalize You, p.151

“Indeed our survival and liberation depend upon our recognition of the truth when it is spoken and lived by the people. If we cannot recognize the truth, then it cannot liberate us from untruth. To know the truth is to appropriate it, for it is not mainly reflection and theory. Truth is divine action entering our lives and creating the human action of liberation.”― Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, a founder of modern Black Theolog.

For printing and distribution, download the Katal Weekly Update PDF version.

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Email: • Phone: 646.875.8822

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