Recently, Mayor de Blasio agreed to close Rikers Island in ten years by replacing it with smaller jails in each borough.
For years, closing Rikers has been a priority for prison reform advocates, who claim that Rikers is so corrupt that it cannot be fixed.
But 10 years is a very long time to wait for those condemned to the brutal conditions that exist in Rikers. It is unacceptable to say that changes cannot be brought to Rikers in the interim.
Bail reform, reducing the inmate population, and the oversight of administrators, guards, and inmate behavior need to be put into effect immediately to protect the inmates, the majority of whom are people of color.
Like Kalief Browder, most people in Rikers have not even been convicted of a crime. They cannot wait 10 years for justice.
Meanwhile in Albany, legislators fought over which version of Raise the Age they would pass.
New York was one of the last states in the country to require 16 and 17 year olds to be separated from adults in jail and have their cases heard in family court.
As a society, we need to be committed to ending mass incarceration and investing in our youth.
The United States has the largest per capita prison population in the world.
Millions of dollars spent maintaining high incarceration rates could instead be invested in better education, housing, and social services.
Money should stop going into regressive policing programs, like “broken windows,” which continue to disrupt communities of color and keep us fearful of the police.
Raise the Age and closing down Rikers are two decisive steps forward in the right direction.