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23, 2016
Contact: Julian Guerrero, (718) 350-5260, #ShutDownRikers #Justice4Kalief
Activists and Community Members Protest Human Rights Crisis at NYC Jail Complex
The Campaign to Shut Down Rikers (SDR) and other activists held an emergency rally
at City Hall to call out Mayor Bill de Blasio on his recent remarks of shutting Rikers
being a good concept but that New Yorkers supportive of the idea need to get
real. Conversely, other NY officials (i.e., Governor Andrew Cuomo, City Council
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Board of Correction
member Stanley Richards) along with the Mayors wife have voiced support for closing
the torture chamber known as Rikers Island: A jail complex notorious for its systemic
culture of violence at the hands of correction officers.
Like many New Yorkers, the call to shut down Rikers is one personal to members of the
Campaign to SDR. We are reminded and motivated by the efforts of Kalief Browder to
shed light on a criminal justice system (CJS) that is fixed against Black, Brown, and lowincome NYC residents: Something needs to be said and done and no justice would
happen if I took a plea. Kalief's case brought national attention to the violence and
injustices endemic to Rikers Island and his brother Akeem, one of the Campaign to
SDR's founding members, now fights in memory of Kalief and all others unjustly
imprisoned and tortured on Rikers. My brother was petrified and said he was scared
because he didnt know where it [the abuse and violence] would come from next. Why
should this be allowed to continue and destroy countless families of New York?
Bradley Ballard, Jerome Murdough, Jason Echevarria, Carlos Mercado, Ronald Spear,
Angel Ramirez, Andy Henriquez, Judy Jean Caquias, and countless other people have
been victims of the brutality, neglect, and violence on Rikers Island. Many of the people
killed or broken by Rikers jail were only accused, not convicted, of a crimelegally
defined as innocent. Nearly 90% of people detained on Rikers are Black or Latino/a,
and 40% of the jails population suffers from mental health issues. Decades worth of
brutality and torture occurring on Rikers make a mockery of the notion that NYC is
amongst the top progressive cities in the country.
Campaign to SDR members are appalled to witness Mayor de Blasio dismiss the moral
imperative to close a facility infamous for corruption scandals and dehumanizing
treatment of detainees as too expensive, as he greenlights a $2.5 billion waterside
condo construction project clearly intended for the wealthiest of New Yorkers. Mayor de
Blasios inability to see the immediate need to close Rikers is unacceptable.
Despite public statements from Cuomo and Mark-Viverito supporting the eventual
closure of Rikers, recent budget decisions by City Hall send a different message. The
addition of 1,800 new correction officers and 1,300 new police officers by the City

Council will cost millions of dollars and create greater resistance, by those who have an
interest to keep Rikers open, to the idea that Rikers will eventually be shut down.
In 2015, NYC spent $112,665 to detain a person for one year on Rikers and $25 million
in transporting Rikers detainees on and off the Island for court appearances, health
purposes, etc. With 85% of people on Rikers awaiting trial or their next court
appearance, NYC spends more than $1 billion per year holding innocent people in an
incredibly violent jail for months, and in many cases years, on end. The high costs
associated with incarcerating roughly 9,350 people who are innocent in the eyes of the
law represent a direct disinvestment from our communities. We demand that this money
be immediately diverted to meet the real needs of New Yorkers, particularly Black,
Brown, and low-income communities.
Both City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and Governor Cuomo speak about a multi-year
process of lowering Rikers population until it is small enough to shut the jail complex;
however, the Campaign to SDR submits that releasing the 85% of people on Rikers
legally considered innocent is not only the humane and civil course of action but can
lower the population enough to make shutting down Rikers an immediate reality. We
reject the plan to build borough-based jails as an alternative to Rikers Island. Rikers is
beyond reform and the Campaign to SDR will settle for nothing less than its permanent
closure without replacement facilities. The alternative to Rikers Island is to spend the $1
billion on mental health services, education, and job opportunities for communities most
affected by the harmful policies of NYCs racist criminal justice system.
We demand that Mayor de Blasio publicly rescind his statement that shutting Rikers
Island is not possible and that he begins, immediately, to work with all pertinent city and
state officials to not only shut down Rikers but to reinvest those funds in communities
that need it most. We will not rest until de Blasio meets these demands; we will not be
silent and we will not take no for an answer. Too many innocent people and lives have
been destroyed by Rikers for the NYC political establishment to wait. We must shut
down Rikers immediately.
Endorsing groups: ICE-FREE NYC, Incarcerated Nation Corp., International Socialist
Organization (NYC), Millions March NYC, New Yorkers Against Bratton, NY Campaign
for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, NYC Jails Action Coalition, NYC Shut It Down,
and People's Power Assembly NYC.
The Campaign to Shut Down Rikers is a NYC
grassroots coalition of activists and organizations
dedicated to organizing for the immediate shut down
of the Rikers Island Jail Complex.