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Alternative Plan to Close Rikers Within 3 Years Backed by Browder Family

By Dartunorro Clark | April 27, 2017 2:32pm
 Akeem Browder (center), the older brother of Kalief Browder, backed an alternative plan to close Rikers Island in three years.
Akeem Browder (center), the older brother of Kalief Browder, backed an alternative plan to close Rikers Island in three years.
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DNAinfo/Dartunorro Clark

HARLEM— The brother of Kalief Browder blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio for “giving us lip service” for his pledge to close Rikers Island within 10 years.

“Will you even be the mayor in 10 years? Or are you only doing this because it’s an election year?” asked Akeem Browder, who joined a pair politicians Wednesday to push an alternative plan to close the jail within three years.

“Take action,” added Browder, whose brother committed suicide after being held in solitary confinement at the jail for years when he was unable to pay his bail for stealing a backpack at the age of 16.

Browder joined Queens Councilman Rory Lancman and Brian Benjamin, a Harlem democrat running for state Senate, at a press conference in West Harlem on Wednesday to back the pair's proposal, claiming the 10-year plan is untenable.

“I’m going to push him as hard as I can,” said Lancman, referring to de Blasio. “I won’t accept a 10-year plan.”

The two said they studied the recommendations made in a report by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and claim their proposal could streamline the process.

The mayor set a goal of reducing Rikers' inmate population to 5,000 under his 10-year plan, with a proposal to replace it with smaller jails across the city. 

Lancman and Benjamin said they are pushing for similar goals, but over a shorter period of time.

They want to cut the daily jail population in half — from 9,000 to fewer than 5,000 — by using diversion programs for low-level criminal offenses, drastically reducing pre-trial detention by expanding a city-supervised release program, funding alternative-to-incarceration programs, and streamlining sentencing guidelines and case processing.

They could also begin the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) — a multi-step review process — to redesign existing smaller jails in parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“Let’s aim high,” said Benjamin, a developer who is also chairman of Manhattan Community Board 10. “The city has the will to do great things when it wants to.”

But “it requires mayoral leadership” and "political will," Lancman added.

Iesha Sekou — founder of Harlem-based Street Corner Resources, an example of one of the community-based anti-violence programs the plan would fund — agreed with the elected officials. 

“When New York wants to go hard, it can build a stadium and churches and knock down a building in a day,” she said.

A representative from the mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.