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We call on you, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and Department of Correction Commissioner Ponte to immediately shut down Rikers Island. It is a factory of human rights abuses that cannot be reformed. The Department of Correction has created a system that enables widespread physical and sexual assault of detainees. Correction officers routinely use solitary confinement as a tool of punishment. Approximately 85% of those incarcerated, including large numbers of adolescents and people with mental illness, have not been convicted of any crime, and many remain incarcerated because they cannot afford bail. Rikers is a potent symbol of a racist criminal justice system that has waged a war on Black, Brown and low-income people. Rather than policies that criminalize and incarcerate, we demand funding for community-based social services, mental health care, rehabilitation, and due process protections.
7 Reasons to #ShutDownRikers
1. Rikers is racist
-90% of people held on Rikers are Black or Latino/a.
2. Rikers punishes poor people
-79% of people on Rikers are there because they couldn’t afford to post bail during arraignment.
3. Rikers breeds physical and sexual violence
-In 2014, correction officers on Rikers used physical force 4,074 times.
-Sexual victimization occurring on Rikers is reported almost three times as much as the national average (8.6% vs. 3.2%).
4. Rikers abuses children and people with mental illness
-Federal investigators found that 43.7% of teenage boys on Rikers were subjected to staff use of force on at least one occasion.
-40% of people held on Rikers suffer from mental health issues and make up 75% of injuries sustained during staff use of force.
5. Rikers acts as a prison, not a jail
-85% of people on Rikers have not been convicted of a crime and are held there during court proceedings. Court cases linger much longer than the 6 months stipulated by New York’s speedy-trial law, the “ready rule”.
6. Rikers is a waste of public spending
-It costs $112,665 to detain a person on Rikers for 1 year.
-Over $1 billion is spent annually to keep Rikers open.
7. Rikers is a torture chamber
-Bradley Ballard, who suffered from schizophrenia and diabetes, was locked in a cell on Rikers for 7 days, deprived of food, water, medication, and health services. Staff deliberately neglected his deteriorating health until it was too late. Naked, covered in feces, and sexually mutilated, Bradley was removed from his cell but died shortly afterward. His death was ruled a homicide. This is just one of dozens of deaths resulting from systemic abuses on Rikers.
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