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For decades, Rikers Island has been marked by violence and corruption. Stories regularly emerge documenting the abuse, brutality, and death in the institution. The #CLOSErikers campaign was formed in 2016 to break political gridlock and achieve solutions guided by directly impacted communities.

JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) launched the #CLOSErikers campaign in 2016 and was a leading voice and resourcer in a coalition of more than 100 organizations. We led multiple demonstrations, gave legislative testimony, and published op-eds and succeeded in drawing the public’s attention to the overcrowding, terrible conditions, and endemic violence that plagued the jail. JLUSA’s Founder was appointed to the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, charged with making recommendations for the closure of the facility. In 2019, the New York City Council voted to close the Rikers Island jail complex, and replace it with four smaller borough-based jails.

Under JLUSA’s leadership, the #CLOSErikers Campaign developed a #buildCOMMUNITIES platform issued on Martin Luther King Day in 2019. The platform was based on input from a series of community forums and from more than 30 partner organizations and called for public investments outside of the criminal legal system. Demands focused on public health, housing, employment and economic development, education and schools, community programs and services, and conflict transformation.

Past Campaigns


The #CLOSErikers campaign fights to SHRINK the NYC jails system and improve conditions; decarcerate New Yorkers; and #buildCOMMUNITIES through justice reinvestment.

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For the members of JustLeadershipUSA and our partners, our demand to #CLOSErikers has always been tied to a vision for shifting funds to investments that will build communities.


We are proud and excited to present this #buildCOMMUNITIES platform as a roadmap for New York City to make a bold shift from the status quo to a city that lives our values of equity and justice.

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