Statement In Response Announcement of the New DOC Commissioner and the Ongoing Crisis on Rikers Island
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 16th, 2021
Yonah Zeitz, [email protected] | (347) 201-2768
Follow on Twitter @katalcenter
The Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice Responds to Announcement of the New DOC Commissioner and the Ongoing Crisis on Rikers Island
Statement from Henry Robinson, member of Katal Center:
“It is undeniable that the conditions on Rikers Island are horrific and life-threatening. This year alone, 16 incarcerated individuals have passed away on Rikers. Every single one of them had a loved one on the outside that was looking forward to the day that they could finally reunite. The city has robbed them of that. In 2017, I was incarcerated in Rikers for almost three months for a technical parole violation. At the time, I had a fractured foot for which I received no medical assistance for and I was put in dangerous situations that led to me being assaulted by several people. Everyday that I was in there I was afraid that I would not make it out alive. The conditions on Rikers seem to have only gotten worse.
Throughout the crisis this year – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – we have seen overcrowding that makes it impossible to socially distance, people have not had beds, working toilets, or access to showers. All of these conditions put people at serious risk of a mental and physical injury or death and are preventable. We know decarceration will keep people safe and prevent more unnecessary deaths. However, instead of working to decrease the number of people incarcerated on the island and keep it low, we are witnessing District Attorney’s and Judges needlessly sending people to jail pre-trial. Back in 2005, I was first sent to Rikers with a bail of 250,000 dollars, and I was incarcerated for months simply because I couldn’t post bail. Almost two decades later, people on Rikers, who are disproportionately Black and Latinx, are still facing this unjust reality. It is unconscionable for Mayor Bill De Blasio to continue to allow this to happen. His inaction has led to too many preventable deaths, it is despicable.
I am frightened to get the news that yet another person has passed away on Rikers, making them the second incarcerated individual to die this week. How can we go into the Holidays and spend time rejoicing with family, when we know that there are people on Rikers that are living in complete fear of their lives due to the dangerous conditions? It's not right.
Today, Mayor-Elect Eric Adams announced the new Department of Correction Commissioner, Louis Molina. We know that regardless of who heads the DOC, the root cause of the problem is Rikers itself. Sadly, we will continue to see preventable tragedies until the jail complex is closed once and for all. We call on Mayor Bill De Blasio to take life-saving action to decarcerate and save lives during the final days of his administration. From the moment Mayor-Elect Adams takes office, he must prioritize the closure of Rikers to help end this humanitarian crisis. The Mayor-Elect should work with DA’s and Judges to decrease the number of people held pretrial and should support bail reform and other much needed state-level reforms that decarcerate our jails. It’s not an option to close Rikers, it is a moral imperative. #CloseRikers”