Formerly incarcerated people call mayor to move forward with plan to close Rikers, despite court ruling

September 23, 2020


Sep. 21, 2020

Contact: Loretta Kane (917-410-7242 or

Formerly incarcerated people call mayor to move forward with plan to close Rikers, despite court ruling

Statement of JustLeadershipUSA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins

NEW YORK — Yesterday, a judge reportedly granted residents’ petition to block construction of a jail in Chinatown. The judge ruled that the City did not follow the proper procedure when deciding to move the location of the jail without holding adequate hearings. The jail is to be constructed as part of the plan to close down the notorious Rikers Island.

JustLeadershipUSA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins issued the following statement in response:

“Rikers Island must be shut down as soon as possible. Every day that Rikers remains open equals horrific human suffering and harm — including death. That’s fact, not exaggeration. JustLeadershipUSA has worked tirelessly to help build the movement that created the pressure to close Rikers. While that plan includes the construction of jails — the capacity of those jails will be significantly lower than the bed count on Rikers Island. More importantly, these will be community jails — where people who are detained can better access their attorneys and family members can visit. That’s important because family and attorneys having access to incarcerated people help reduce abuse, strengthen legal defense and allow incarcerated people to stay connected to their families.

“Of course, we are working to abolish all prisons and jails. That is the ideal, however, we must ask what happens to currently incarcerated people between now and the day that we shutter the last jail in America? For the people sitting in cells on Rikers Island today, demand that no jails be constructed is political polemic with a painful punch, as incarcerated people writhe in the decrepit Rikers campus.

“Opponents of constructing community jails have formed an uncomfortable and unfortunate alliance with the NIMBY (not in my backyard) movement to keep “undesirable elements” out of their communities. The people incarcerated on Rikers Island are human beings and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They have families, who have a right to be able to visit them. They have basic human rights, which we are morally obligated to protect.

“We call on the City to appeal the judge’s ruling and for criminal justice reform advocates to listen to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people — especially those currently exiled on Rikers Island — and heed their call to shut Rikers down now. The most immediate and humane path to closing Rikers is by following through on the plan laid forth by the ULURP approval.

“We also urge the mayor not to allow this setback derail the plan to close Rikers. Rather, he and the City Council must continue to work to reduce incarceration and increase investments in resources like housing, healthcare, employment and education — in line with our #buildCOMMUNITIES platform.

“We will not bow to those who want to keep incarcerated people out of sight. We will not allow the NIMBY forces to subvert humanitarian efforts to stop the abuses on Rikers Island. As a formerly incarcerated person and someone who has visited Rikers, I know that delaying its shutdown is morally reprehensible. #CLOSErikersNOW.”


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