#CloseRikers Build Communities on the steps of City Hall

The line waiting to go through security and get inside the gate of City Hall yesterday for the #CloseRIkers Build Communities press conference. At least 300 or so people showed up to listen to a list of inspirational speakers.
The organization #CloseRikers was giving away free T Shirts to those online. The cost of detaining One person on Rikers Island for a year $247,000
Mala DuBai spoke with me before the start of the press conference saying that the smaller prisons De Blasio spoke about building to replace Rikers Island already exist calling them “borough jails”. Mala said that Rikers holds 9-10 thousand people and “the borough jails hold far less than that”. “We have a 19 century model so all the jails that we have are outdated anyway”. I asked Mala one of the reason he calling to close down Rikers and he said, “The violence itself. Rikers Island has the reputation of a Monster and YOU CAN’T REFORM A MONSTER. You can go in there for jumping the train stop and come out a killer. That doesn’t seem logical to me. Rikers Island is on top of a garbage dump so methane gas that seeps through, so let’s be realistic, should anybody be there?


One of the supporters on the steps of City Hall yesterday for the #CloseRikers Build Communities press conference holding a picture of Kalief Browder, who, at the age of 16 was held on Rikers Island for 3 years, 2 of the years in solitary confinement, without charge or trial Video of Kalief Browder shows him being abused by guards while handcuffed. Kalief refused to “plea out” and plead guilty to something he knows he did not do which extended his detainment but, was finally released. Kalief attempted suicide multiple times while in Rikers then succeeded after he was released. The experience was just too much for him.
Glenn E. Martin, is the President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) moderating the press conference. JustLeadershipUSA is dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. He is part of the vanguard of advocates working to make that future a reality. His goal is to amplify the voice of the people most impacted, and to position them as reform leaders. At its core, JLUSA challenges the assumption that formerly incarcerated people lack the skills to thoughtfully weigh in on policy reform. Rather, JLUSA is based on the principle that people closest to the problem are also the people closest to its solution. Mr. Martin speaks from personal experience, having spent six years incarcerated in a New York State prison in the early 1990s. That experience has informed his career, which has been recognized with honors such as the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the 2014 Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellowship. Mr. Martin is also the founder of the #CLOSErikers campaign. Prior to founding JLUSA, he was the Vice President of The Fortune Society, one of the most respected reentry organizations in the country, the Co-Director of the National HIRE Network at the Legal Action Center, and one of the Co-Founders of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition. https://www.justleadershipusa.org/about-us/


The #CLOSErikers campaign launched on the steps of City Hall in April 2016. One year later, we have grown in power and numbers, and achieved concrete wins. Mayor de Blasio has committed to shuttering the Rikers Island jails for good, and the Lippman Commission’s final report recommended closure, as well as concrete policy reforms to reduce incarceration in New York city and state.

We should all celebrate these important wins, but our work is not done! We must continue to organize, pressure stakeholders, and make sure that impacted communities remain at the center of the process. We must ensure that the closure of Rikers happens in a timely manner, and results in a significantly smaller, more just and humane system overall.

Join the #CLOSErikers campaign, back on the steps of City Hall, as we celebrate this historic moment, and double down on our efforts to #CLOSErikers and #buildCOMMUNITIES!

The press conference was held to say NO to De Blasio saying he will close Rikers in 10 years. Glenn E. Martin and the supporters of #CloseRikers say “Not in 10 years, NOW”. Martin said that last year there were 50 organizations supporting the event and this year there are 140 + organizations that are listed on the #CLOSErikers site. Martin thanked Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Counsel speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito who were the first city elected officials to support the campaign to Close Rikers.

“Close Rikers Now”, this speaker called for a more humane system. “Mass incarceration perpetuates tragic stories like Kalief Browder and many others. Why do we say Close Rikers? Because of our countries addiction of punishment that allows a culture of violence and a code of silence to exits”.
Anna Pastoressa’s son has been on Rikers Island for 6 years without a trial, spoke saying that she was at the rally last year, “I was desperate about my son who’s incarcerated in Rikers Island for 6 years waiting for trial. 6 long years of abuse, or torture, of mental physical abuse and a lot of violence. I WAS SHOCKED, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS HAPPENS IN NYC. I was effected by it I realized, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE”. Anna Pastoressa said she was proud of how far the organization has come in the past year. 6 years is a long time to be on Rikers. My Son is innocent and was treated like a guilty person. Everybody on that Island is treated like a guilty person”.


Piper Anderson who is an educator and teaches on Rikers said she tries to bring art and some light and hope to young people at Rikers. “I BELIEVE THAT TEACHING IS THE PRACTICE OF FREEDOM AND YOU CAN’T PRACTICE FREEDOM ON A TORTURE ISLAND”.
Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association addressed the supporters reading a quote from Mohammad Ali, “Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential.
Samantha Johnson thanking Judge Jonathan Lippman (Chair) Former Chief Judge of the State of New York and Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, and Of Counsel at Latham & Watkins LLPand the Lippman Commission. More Just NYC Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform is comprised of two dozen experts, policymakers, and advocates from a variety of backgrounds, including law enforcement, academia, judges, advocacy groups, business, and those who have spent time behind bars. The Commission was convened at the request of New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who called for its creation in February 2016 in her State of the City address. A wholly independent body, we are not taking any funding from government or political entities.
Messia Malcolm performing his rap,, The video of the press conference can be found at April Watters youtube.

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Cat April Watters

Author: Cat April Watters

On a Truth Diet! Purging myself of all the LIES from Society.