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statement: donna hylton, senior justice advisor for katal, regarding city council hearing on the mayor’s plan to #closerikers

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Thursday, September 5, 2019


Yan Snead, | 518.360.1543


Statement from Donna Hylton, Senior Justice Advisor for Katal, regarding city council hearing on the Mayor’s Plan to #CLOSErikers


New York, NY: Directly impacted people, grassroots community groups, and faith organizations convened on the steps of New York City Hall today demanding the City Council shutter Rikers Island Jail Complex. The rally follows the City Planning Commission’s 9-3 vote on Tuesday in favor of the De Blasio administration’s land-use proposal for borough-based facilities.

It is a moral imperative that the City shutters Rikers once and for all. Community groups and directly impacted people are vigorously working to pressure the Mayor to improve the proposed plan– for instance, by shrinking even further the projected detention population, and committing to major investments in community health and safety. The City Council must make every effort to speed up the process of closing Rikers and supporting the communities impacted by mass incarceration.

As New York City moves forward with the process to closing Rikers Island, the question of people on parole detained at Rikers looms large. While the average daily population in NYC has fallen nearly 25 percent since 2014– and will drop further after bail reform implementation in 2020– the number of people held for crimeless, technical violations of parole is up nearly 20 percent in the last 5 years. The increasing number of people detained for state parole violations is slowing the closure of the City’s jails on Rikers Island and prohibiting the Planning Commission from reducing the estimated size of the Mayor’s proposed borough-based facilities even lower.

To fast-track the closure of the toxic jail complex and reduce jail populations in NYC and around the state, Albany must enact changes to the parole system, beginning with the Less Is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act. #LessIsMoreNY would fix this problem by enacting urgently needed reforms to parole practices, while strengthening public safety and supporting effective re-entry for people coming home from prison. Through the passage of this bill, the state can ensure that the detention population shrinks in NYC and the future detention footprint in the City is much smaller. 

“I survived 27 years in prison, to then be released into another form of incarceration that our country calls ‘parole supervision’. As someone who was once detained on Rikers Island, I know how absolutely critical it is that we close this facility once and for all. The City Council should get more engaged to expedite the closure process. However, we cannot do this without reforming our parole system,” said Donna Hylton, Senior Justice Advisor at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. “As someone who spent years on parole, I can say from experience how urgently our state needs to fix the parole system. Our Less is More bill will fix how the state handles technical violations, and bring New York one step closer to finally shutting down the environmental crisis that is Rikers Island. Legislators failed to pass #LessIsMoreNY this session, but we don’t need to wait till the next session in January to fix this. The Governor could call a special session right now and Senate Leader Andrea Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie could work to pass Less Is More, NOW. Only then will we know that our state is truly serious about urgently closing Rikers.”



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