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statement from leaders of the #closerikers campaign on mayor bill de blasio’s roadmap to closing rikers island

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Thursday, June 22, 2017 (New York, NY) – Leaders of the #CLOSErikers Campaign issued the following statements in response to today’s announcement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about his “Roadmap to Closing Rikers Island.”

Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA said,

“It’s been nearly three months since Mayor de Blasio made the announcement that he will close Rikers Island, and he has remarkably little to show for it. He must lay out concrete steps tied to a timeline that recognizes the urgency of ending the harm caused by Rikers. Simply put, ten years is way too long. Many of the barriers to speedy closure are not questions of feasibility or affordability, but of political will, and thus far the Mayor has been nothing short of unwilling. He has been reluctant to work with oppositional voices, even when they are the very people who have been most harmed by his policies. If de Blasio is truly committed, action will begin now.

While the Mayor spends his time assembling a task force, New Yorkers at Rikers – mostly black and brown – continue to suffer in deplorable conditions and face routine human rights abuses. Certainly changes must be made to ensure that people detained at Rikers are in a safe and humane environment until closure is possible. But no new permanent structures should be constructed, and improvements to infrastructure on the Island cannot become a distraction from the ultimate goal of quickly shuttering the penal colony once and for all.

And lastly, after dismissing the report from the yearlong work of the expert Lippman Commission as a ‘bunch of volunteers making recommendations,’ the Mayor will need to prove his authenticity by sharing a plan that is equally thoughtful and reflective of the community’s input. Make no mistake, any plan that does not incorporate the voices and experiences of people most harmed by Rikers will be dead on arrival.”

 gabriel sayegh, Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice said,

“It’s clear that Rikers must be closed, and that we must completely transform our justice system in New York City and state of New York. The Lippman Commission sought community input, outlined a plan for closing Rikers and re-imagining the criminal justice system in its entirety, and identified actions that the City and State must take to achieve a new vision. In contrast, the Mayor’s plan suffers from a lack of vision and urgency, perhaps because it doesn’t include any community input or any community leaders on his Task Force. The crisis of Rikers is clear, and we need a plan of action urgent and visionary enough to solve it as quickly as possible. We’re still waiting for such a plan from the Mayor.”

Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director of VOCAL-NY said,

“We should be ashamed every day that Rikers is allowed to exist in New York City, and the Mayor should be doing everything in his power to close that awful place as soon as possible. Plans and policies for reducing the city’s jail population and closing Rikers already exist. What we need now is the political will and a swift timeline to enact change.”

About the #CLOSErikers campaign:

The #CLOSErikers campaign was formed in 2016 to break the political gridlock and achieve real solutions that are 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, faith and human rights leaders, criminal justice experts, health and housing service providers, advocacy and legal groups and more.  Through the campaign, over 150 diverse organizations across New York City and hundreds of directly impacted people have joined together to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio close Rikers as quickly as possible.  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. For more information visit:



CONTACT:  Emily NaPier, or315.243.5135

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