NEW YORK CITY — For more than a year, dozens of city officials, academics, politicians, former judges and advocates have studied the conditions at Rikers Island Jail, the penal colony that's been called "disgusting" and "inhumane" by everyone from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
On Friday, just before 5 p.m., the commission finally released its scathing report on what Rikers' future should be. The report by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform — led by Hon. Jonathan Lippman, the former New York State chief judge and 26 other panelists, does not mince words.
"We reviewed, studied, and debated every possible solution to the problem of Rikers. We have concluded that simply reducing the inmate population, renovating the existing facilities, or increasing resources will not solve the deep, underlying issues on Rikers Island. We are recommending, without hesitation or equivocation, permanently ending the use of Rikers Island as a jail facility in any form or function," reads the 146-page report.
"Closing Rikers Island is a moral imperative. The Island is a powerful symbol of a discredited approach to criminal justice — a penal colony that subjects all within its walls to inhumane conditions."
The study is in keeping with DNAinfo New York's reporting from last year, which detailed the plans to close Rikers Island's jail facilities and enumerated a plan to replace it with smaller jails across the city, which the mayor rejected as "untrue" at the time.
Still, the mayor's plan to slowly phase out Rikers over the next decade was blasted by some advocates.
"Any movement to shut it down is great, but taking 10 years to do it, really? Do you know how many people will suffer in that hellhole for the next 10 years?" asked Akeem Browder, whose brother Kalief Browder committed suicide after being held in solitary confinement at the jail for years after being unable to pay bail for a backpack theft charge at the age of 16.
Browder, who has advocated to shut down Rikers since his brother's death, including appearing in a documentary about his brother's life, also said the plan to relocate jails to other locations around NYC is not enough.
"We need alternatives to incarceration. Just because the jail will be shiny and new, and not the decrepit horrible place that is Rikers, it’s still transferring humans from one cage to another cage. We want rehabilitation, not punishment. We need human care and compassion, not people being beaten and starved."
► City Hall Quietly Eyes Neighborhoods for New Jails to Replace Rikers Island
► Here Are City Documents on 'Effort' to Close Rikers That De Blasio Denies
► Rikers Island: The Evolution of City Hall's Search for a Fix
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