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release: leaders of the #closerikers movement rally at city hall in push to close the notoriously violent jail complex

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APRIL 22, 2019



Yan Snead | 518.360.1534

Thomas Meara | 718.309.3506


Rally Marks Three-Year Anniversary of the #CLOSErikers Movement, Yet Violence Continues to Persist at the Notorious Facility

As Historic Criminal Justice Reforms Finally Passed in the State Legislature, Now is the Time for the City to Take Meaningful Action to Close the Facility

Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice members and staff alongside grassroots organizations and leaders and advocates from the #CLOSErikers campaign convene on the steps of New York City Hall.

New York, NY – Three years ago, the #CLOSErikers campaign held its public launch on the steps of City Hall to call on Mayor de Blasio to close the notorious Rikers Island Jail Complex. Today, the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, leaders and advocates from the #CLOSErikers campaign, along with grassroots organizations and partners, convened once again on those very steps to continue the push to close the failed jail complex and celebrate the three-year anniversary of the #CLOSErikers movement. The rally recognized the critical work of community groups that led to the de Blasio Administrations’ landmark decision in 2017 to take steps necessary to close Rikers Island. The movement called on leaders across the City and State to take action to make closure a reality, including Mayor de Blasio, New York City Council, all five city District Attorneys and Borough Presidents, Community Boards, State Legislators and Governor Cuomo.

Members and advocates discussed the progress made to date — including passage earlier this month of historic bail reform — and the action steps needed to secure a more just and fair criminal justice system in New York City, including reinvesting money from the current criminal legal system into programs that support people and communities. In addition, they called for parole reform by demanding Albany pass the Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act —  developed by people on parole, people currently incarcerated, family members, Katal, Unchained, and the Columbia Justice Lab — which would further decarcerate Rikers and jails and prisons across New York State, and help people to successfully rejoin their communities.

Partners in attendance today included: JustLeadershipUSA; College and Community Fellowship; Beyond Rosies; Exodus Transitional Community; Bronx Defenders; Jails Action Coalition; LatinoJustice PRLDF; VOCAL-New York; Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project; and City Council Members in support of the campaign including Brooklyn Councilmember Steve Levin.

Statements by Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice members and staff:

Nancy Sicardo, Katal member and Manhattan resident, said: “I’ve been incarcerated on Rikers and in state prisons, and I’ve seen enough of this system to know I don’t trust it and it must be completely reformed. Rikers is an unjust facility that strips people– people of color– of their humanity. Why do we have such a place in our city when it’s supposed to be progressive and fair? We need to close Rikers, and create a system that IS fair and brings safety and justice to all of our communities. A system that treats other Nancy’s and young girls with the respect and dignity we deserve.”

Ekeythia Dunston, Katal member and Queens resident, said: “I’m a former New York City Police Officer and a formally incarcerated woman, and I thoroughly support the #CLOSErikers movement. Experiencing the unsavory conditions and inhumane treatment on Rikers Island would leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. We can utilize our resources in a more efficient, effective and comprehensive way that will empower and build successful communities. There’s nothing comprehensive about keeping Rikers open. There should be no more delays in closing Rikers. SHUT IT DOWN!”

Curtis Bell, Katal member and Brooklyn resident, said: “As New Yorkers we pride ourselves on being fair, just, and equitable. But as just one of the thousands of people who have been subjected to the harms of our broken justice system, I can tell you this system is not fair, just, or equitable. Rikers simultaneously causes harm to our communities and stands as a symbol of the harms of this biased system. I live in Brooklyn and I know Rikers must be shut down immediately. That is just one of the reasons I am working to pass the Less Is More Act in Albany, to reform our parole system so that our local jails aren’t full of people detained for unreasonable technical violations.”

Donna Hylton, Director of the Women and Girls Project at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, said: “As a person who was jailed on Rikers, I know how dehumanizing and harmful it is for the women, men, and trans people detained there. It is time to close Rikers Island once and for all. The justice system in New York City must be wholly transformed, and the City must dramatically cut down the number of people in detention. At the state level, we’ve just won bail reform, which will drop jail populations significantly. The Legislature and Governor should now immediately pass the Less is More Act to reduce the number of people on parole who are detained on Rikers. Today we remind our city officials – not just the Mayor, but the City Council, Borough Presidents, Community Boards, Comptroller, Public Advocate, and District Attorneys – that directly impacted communities demand they heed our call and together work to swiftly, and finally, close this disaster we call Rikers Island.”

Lorenzo Jones, Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, said: “Closing Rikers is a moral and political imperative. It is a critical step to advance health, equity, and justice for all neighborhoods in New York City. We are not standing idly by and assuming that closure will just happen on its own because some officials said so. Communities are continuing to organize across the City, to make closure a fact instead of just a promise. The City Council, Community Boards, Borough Presidents, the District Attorneys, and yes, the Mayor, all are responsible now to take action to make closure real. And we are going to hold them accountable to that demand, because New Yorkers deserve nothing less.”



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