FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2017
NY group joins Florida criminal justice reform advocates to protest mass incarceration and the need to close poor functioning jails.
The #CLOSErikers campaign will rally at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday, March 4 to continue their call for Mayor Bill de Blasio to shut down Rikers Island Jail Complex and to protest rampant mass incarceration nationwide.
#CLOSErikers campaign members will be joined by dozens of South Florida-based criminal justice reform advocates to draw attention to the issue of mass incarceration in the nation’s prison system and for Mayor de Blasio to stand behind his progressive agenda and close the city’s long plagued jail complex.
The protest will be held at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel (2301 SE 17th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL.) at 6 p.m.
“Mayor de Blasio will soon realize that our demand to close Rikers Island knows no borders,” said Glenn E. Martin, president and founder of JustLeadershipUSA. “This human-grist mill that is Rikers, often referred to as Gladiator School, is a symbol of the failure of decades of progressive leaders to resist making policies driven by fear. Instead, they have become complicit in its machinery. Mayor de Blasio cannot teach other progressives how to #RESIST, when he is responsible for a mega-jail that feeds so many New Yorkers directly into the very policies he allegedly opposes.”
The #CLOSErikers protest in Florida comes at a time when the horrors of Rikers have been made painfully evident in the Jay-Z funded documentary “Time: The Kalief Browder Story,” which airs on Spike TV this month in six parts. Akeem Browder, Kalief’s brother, and now founder of the Campaign to Shut Down Rikers, voiced his concern over Mayor de Blasio’s refusal to move forward with shuttering Rikers and the importance of closing the jail.
“Rikers has been allowed to exist, and destroy lives—especially black and brown lives—for far too long. My brother, Kalief, is one of the many who have unnecessarily lost their lives at the hands of Rikers. To try to convince the people of the U.S. that our jails and prisons are NOT the result of racial injustice, and that lack of investment and resources in communities of color is due to a lack of funds, while children’s lives are at stake, is not justice,” said Akeem Browder.
“I am aware that some may object to the severity of my language, but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice should be. I will not equivocate, I will not excuse,” Akeem Browder added. “Until we change the criminal justice practices at the federal, state and local level that killed Kalief, and that impact the millions affected by mass incarceration, I WILL BE HEARD.”
#CLOSErikers is a burgeoning citywide effort to transform New York City’s criminal justice system by shuttering the failed jail complex and healing and rebuilding the communities that have been most impacted by mass incarceration. The campaign is led by JustLeadershipUSA in partnership with the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice and includes more than 125 organizations across New York City that address issues including housing, immigration, and health, in addition to criminal justice.
While support for the #CLOSErikers campaign has been growing, especially among progressive leaders, Mayor de Blasio’s endorsement has been noticeably absent. The Mayor has refused to address the campaign’s demand to close Rikers, despite increasing scrutiny and concern over abuses suffered by people incarcerated there.
Saturday’s protest will bring out a wide range of local criminal justice advocates and organizations, including Florida-based Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter Alliance in Broward, Showing up For Racial Justice (SURJ) – Miami, and more.
“State sanctioned violence and institutional racism continues to keep our communities disenfranchised here in Broward County. Broward has the 13th largest jail in the nation, with over 80 percent being black and brown people,” said Tifanny Burks of Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward. “We demand better of our elected officials. This is why we are with the #CLOSErikers campaign; we want an end to mass incarceration across the nation and envision a society with our community members that values their dignity and humanity.”
“The State throws Black, Brown and working class people through a vigorous cycle of poverty, under-education, over policing and mass incarceration. Florida is ground zero for this phenonomon,” said Rachel Gilmer, Dream Defenders’ Chief of Strategy. “More Black people are killed by the police each year in Florida than anywhere else and we have the third largest prison system in the country. We lead the nation in school-to-prison-pipeline arrests and spend 3x more on youth incarceration than we do on education. We are excited that the #CLOSErikers Campaign has come to Florida. We need to make connections across local movements because the criminalization facing our people in New York is deeply connected to what is happening to people here and across the world. We can replace Rikers and jails and prisons throughout the world with a system that respects the humanity and dignity of all people.”
Advocates will highlight the many parallel problems currently facing the Florida prison system. For example, as Florida state government continues to move funding towards private prisons, overall conditions are failing at prisons across the state, along with a lack of investment in educational and rehabilitation programs that could help combat recidivism. Meanwhile, the same officials are resistant to ending mandatory minimum sentences, which would save millions in state money that could be used instead for schools or infrastructure.