Large-Scale Bailout Action Will Free Women and Young People Jailed in New York City Because They Cannot Afford Bail, and Will Lead To Dramatic Drop in Rikers Island Jails’ Population
New York, NY – JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) is proud to announce its participation in the historic Mass Bail Out action of women and youth from Rikers Island anchored by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. The Mass Bail Out is a collaborative effort by grassroots organizations, formerly incarcerated leaders, and advocacy groups in the movement to end mass incarceration. Of the 9,000 people jailed in New York City on any given day, over 75 percent are there because they cannot afford bail. In total, nearly 90 percent of the jail population is Black or Latino.
As an organization led by directly impacted people, JLUSA – and our members and leaders – understand the devastating consequences of pretrial incarceration and the unconscionable racial and economic disparities produced by money bail. Even a few days of pretrial incarceration can result in the loss of employment and housing and the initiation of child neglect cases with long-lasting impacts on the financial stability, integrity, and well-being of families. New York’s money bail system criminalizes working class people and those who cannot afford bail, violating the most basic protection of our justice system: the presumption of innocence. Pretrial incarceration also coerces guilty pleas, particularly for young people desperate to go home and mothers separated from their children. The Mass Bailout action will illustrate how a pretrial system in New York City and State ought to function – presumptively innocent people released and connected to housing and community-based services. The women and young people who will be bailed out have experienced disruption and harm by being jailed because they cannot afford to pay the price tag on their freedom. As a result, their families and loved ones have also suffered. There is no reason for women, children, anyone suffering from a range of mental health conditions or anyone with drug-related charges to be on Rikers today or at any facility managed by the DOC. Medical, mental health, and dependency treatment, including prenatal and maternity care as well as gender-affirming treatment for transgender and gender non-conforming people, must happen outside the system. It’s possible for programs for women, young people, homeless people and veterans to happen outside of the system, it is a matter of political will.
JustLeadershipUSA participates in the Mass Bail Out as part of our broader efforts on the #CLOSErikers and #FREEnewyork campaigns, which fight to end the jail crisis in both New York City and across the State. The #FREEnewyork campaign demands that Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature pass groundbreaking legislation to end money bail without the implementation of harmful replacements like discriminatory risk assessment instruments, mass community surveillance or expansive preventative detention (S3579A (Gianaris) / A5033A (O’Donnell)). The #CLOSErikers campaign demands that Mayor de Blasio do more to decarcerate New York City and close the entire Rikers 10 jail complex. New York City’s elected officials must also take action. Each day, 500 women and 100 minors endure neglect, abuse and isolation on Rikers. The large-scale bailout will result in a dramatic drop in Rikers’ population, providing an opportunity for Mayor De Blasio to shutter the Rose M. Singer Center, the jail on Rikers Island designated for women. In doing so, he can begin to demonstrate a commitment to truly #CLOSErikers and #buildCOMMUNITIES.
The Mass Bail Out Action is inspired by the movement to end bail nationwide, which includes bail out actions by dozens of local bail and immigrant bond funds and campaigns, as well as national initiatives such as the Mama’s Day Black Love Bail Out and others. These actions are rooted in the resistance deployed by enslaved people to free their loved ones and organized bail outs of civil rights leaders and protesters arrested for their activism.
Quotes on the Mass Bail Out from Directly Impacted Leaders
“JustLeadershipUSA is proud to play a central role in this historic mass bailout of women and children from Rikers Island. The Mass Bailout disrupts systemic racism and injustice that should not exist at all. People should be able to fight their cases from home in order to have a fair shot at justice. People, like me, who are directly impacted by mass incarceration and New Yorkers across the state are calling for an end to money bail and structural overhaul of the pretrial system because it prevents Black and Brown people, and people living in heavily policed and under-resourced communities, to have the same shot at fair trials that white, wealthy people have. I know firsthand what the torture of pretrial detention on Rikers Island is like, and the devastation that mass jailing causes to individuals, families and communities. JustLeadershipUSA demands that New York State pass legislation to end money bail without implementing harmful replacements like discriminatory risk assessment instruments or mass community surveillance. We demand that elected officials end the jail crisis, both in New York City and State and fund basic needs and healing in our communities.” – Tamika Graham, JustLeadershipUSA Member and#CLOSErikers & #FREEnewyork campaign leader
“The Mass Bailout is a powerful action – reuniting women and children with their families. As a mom who was incarcerated pretrial at Rosie’s, I know the pain and injustice of a money bail system that incarcerates people – without evidence – simply because they cannot afford bail. People should be with their families, not through telephones or glass, not on time-designated visits. We must recognize the devastating consequences of pretrial incarceration. In three or four months, your kids are in the system, you’re homeless, and you have lost everything. You have also been impacted by the horror of Rikers or Rosie’s: cursed at, maced, and regularly strip searched. That is not justice. It is class-based cruelty that targets communities of color. As a proud leader of the #FREEnewyork and #CLOSErikers campaigns, I say to New York City and New York State: we must decarcerate New York’s jails, end money bail, protect due process, and close Rikers once and for all. We must establish a system which honors that everyone is innocent unless proven guilty, and does not preserve this protection only for the wealthy. As the Mass Bail Out begins, we look forward to welcoming home the women and children who have been incarcerated pretrial and building a more just world.” – Jasmine Moore, JustLeadershipUSA Member and#CLOSErikers & #FREEnewyork campaign leader
“New York must decarcerate. Far too many people are locked in cages every day, including children – 16 and 17 year olds – who should never experience this. At the state level, we must pass bold pretrial reform to end a system of mass pretrial incarceration. In New York City, we must move unapologetically towards the closure of Rikers Island. With the mass bailout of young people and people in women’s facilities, New York City must demonstrate its commitment to closing Rikers and shutter Rosie’s for good. Only then will New Yorkers believe that the Mayor’s pledge to close Rikers is based in action rather than rhetoric.” – Davon Woodley, JustLeadershipUSA Member and #CLOSErikers & #FREEnewyork campaign leader
“This mass bail out will return women and children back to their homes and families. Incarceration on Torture Island aka Rikers should not be a punishment because you’re poor. They are innocent until proven guilty. Welcome to Mayor De Blasio’s tale of two cities.” – Darren Mack, JustLeadershipUSA Member and#CLOSErikers & #FREEnewyork campaign leader
“For decades, the U.S. has increasingly put forth a policy of incarceration as a solution to all of our society’s ills. A person’s freedom isn’t decided through a just court system, but rather how much money they have in their pocket. It is time for us as a country to face the systemic issues that lead to poverty, criminalization, and incarceration. The Mass Bail Out shines a spotlight on the fundamental truth that our bail system is broken and only real reform that allows people awaiting trial to be at home with their families will bring justice to our communities.” – Vidal Guzman, JustLeadershipUSA Member and#CLOSErikers & #FREEnewyork campaign leader
JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) is a national organization dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030 by building the power of people most affected by mass incarceration to drive policy reform. JLUSA, in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations and directly impacted New Yorkers, anchors the #CLOSErikers and #FREEnewyork campaigns, which fight to end the jail crisis in New York City and State by passing legislative overhaul of New York’s bail and discovery laws, closing the Rikers Island jail complex, and building just, safe and healthy communities.