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Katal Testifies at DOC Budget Hearing

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, May 17, 2024

Contact:  Yonah Zeitz, yonah@katalcenter.org | (347) 201-2769

Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | #ShutRikers | #CutShutInvestNY

Statement from the Katal Center on Joint Budget Hearing Held by the New York City Council Committee on Criminal Justice and the Committee on Finance

New York, NY: Today, the New York City Council Committee on Criminal Justice and the Committee on Finance held a joint Executive Budget hearing on the budget for Fiscal Year 2025. This follows recent announcements that two of the borough-based jail’s construction timelines will run until 2031—four years after the legally mandated deadline to close Rikers. Along with major construction delays, the jail population continues to rise, and it’s currently above 6,300, which constitutes an increase of over a hundred people since this committee’s last budget hearing in March. Katal and our members testified at the hearing and issued this statement.

See Katal’s written testimony for today’s budget hearing here

Quotes from community groups and impacted community members: 

Melanie Dominguez, Organizing Director at the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “Once again, Black, brown, and low-income communities are confronted with an Executive Budget by Mayor Adams that will further dismantle the social safety, tear apart families through increased incarceration, and stymie efforts to shut down Rikers. Mayor Adams’s backward approach to public safety is to address nearly every social problem with more cops and putting more people in cages. While the administration continues to excessively fund the NYPD and DOC, they’re slashing $28 million in funding for vital alternatives to incarceration, supervised release, and re-entry services. This will lead to more people being incarcerated at Rikers with a price tag of $556,539 a person per year to incarcerate someone at Rikers. The administration plans for the jail population to rise to 7000 (an increase of 700) by the end of the year, which will cost NYC taxpayers nearly $400 million. At the same time, they are currently experiencing essential services getting cut across the board. 

The mayor’s budget is morally bankrupt and shows no intention of shutting down Rikers by 2027, 2031, or any date. We reject the mayor’s callous budget proposal and demand a budget for New Yorkers that will cut the jail population, shut down Rikers, and invest in real community safety, with housing, health care, education, and jobs.”

Tawana Atkins, Member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “While my son was incarcerated at Rikers Island, he suffered severe injuries at the hands of correctional officers. My son, who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, was not feeling well on this particular day, and he approached correctional officers to get medical attention. Instead of helping him, they decided to beat the hell out of my son. He had to be hospitalized for internal bleeding. On that day I could have lost my son like so many mothers have. My son should have never been sent to Rikers. He deserves adequate care for his mental illness. The City Council needs to pass a budget that shuts down Rikers and invests in care for our communities that include access to mental healthcare.”

Ziyadah Amatul-Matin, Leader at the Katal Center, said: “Individuals incarcerated at Rikers Island are facing horrifying conditions that are not fit for any human being. As someone with a loved one that is incarcerated we worry constantly about their well-being because their basic needs are not being met. People detained at Rikers don’t have access to adequate medical care, clean bathrooms, and programming. Last year, the Mayor made devastating budget cuts to organizations providing these essential services to people detained at Rikers. Incarcerated individuals and their loved ones are constantly being forgotten. It needs to stop. These systems and the budgets are setting people up for failure. How do we expect someone to move forward if they are not receiving the help and care they need? There needs to be money put back into programming for people incarcerated. Individuals coming home should be given a fixed income to be able to get housing, medical, and education. We need this change to express love and not hate and ignorance. They dont just need hope but need reassurance that they will and can make it once they come home. The New York City Council must pass a budget that will ensure the success of people returning home from jail and prison and that reflects a commitment to shut down Rikers.” 

Luke Steele, Member at the Katal Center, said: “We cannot lose sight of the life-threatening conditions that people detained at Rikers are experiencing. Rikers must be shut down. Our communities need care and our city must stop relying on the criminal legal system to put a bandage on social problems. So many people are being pushed out of their neighborhoods and are being left without shelter. Many of us are barely making ends meet while rent increases. It was hard enough for me to find housing when I returned home and things have not improved. Rather than spending money on the Department of Corrections who has failed at keeping people safe the City must invest in alternatives to incarceration. The City Council needs to pass a budget that shuts Rikers and invests in housing and healthcare.”

Giliana Diaz-Torres, member of the Katal Center, said: “Rikers Island’s closure is essential for multiple reasons. Firstly, its notorious history of violence, corruption, and inhumane treatment of incarcerated individuals is well-documented, highlighting systemic failures within its carceral system. Secondly, investing in community-based services like community health work, educational resources, childcare programs, and mental health programs offers a proactive approach to addressing the root causes of crime and reducing recidivism rates. By reallocating funds towards these initiatives, we can foster healthier, safer communities while providing individuals with the support and resources they need to thrive, rather than perpetuating cycles of incarceration. Shutting down Rikers Island represents an opportunity to prioritize rehabilitation, empowerment, and justice within our society, ultimately leading to a more equitable and humane approach to addressing crime.”

Background:

At Rikers, violence is out of control. At least 31 people have died in city jails since Mayor Adams took office. The dysfunction and mismanagement of the jails and the Department of Correction has intensified under Adams. The Mayor’s current “jail-first” approach to the crisis at Rikers is centered on sending more low-income, Black, and brown New Yorkers to cages there, subjecting them to dangerous and life-threatening conditions. The jail population is now over 6,300, and there were about 5,000 people in city jails when Adams became mayor. The Adams administration is planning for the city’s jail population to go up to 7000 this year – adding another 700 people to the city’s jail population. This will, using the Comptroller’s figures, cost nearly four hundred million dollars. The mayor is proposing deep cuts to essential programs across the city, including alternatives to incarceration, mental health services, CUNY, summer youth employment, homelessness services, housing, libraries, universal pre-K and 3k, and much more. This will have a detrimental effect on the most marginalized communities in the city.

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