Rikers Violence Requires Focused Reforms, NYCLU Testifies

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
May 6, 2015 4:45 pm

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NEW YORK – At a hearing examining violence at and oversight of Rikers Island, the New York Civil Liberties Union will today urge the New York City Council to consider the 11 bills currently before the Council within the context of broader reforms focused on the root factors contributing to the jail’s over-population.

“From the NYPD’s Broken Windows policing, to punitive bail practices, to harmful jail conditions that increase the likelihood of recidivism, the City Council must change the policies that push New Yorkers into the criminal justice system and make it so difficult to get out. Given that 75 percent of the people held on Rikers Island are pre-trial, and 40 percent of the population has a mental illness, it is clear that some New Yorkers shouldn’t be locked up at Rikers at all,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Today’s hearing is a commendable step in the right direction, but we need more than hearings – we need commonsense, results-oriented reforms that will actually make Rikers and New York City safer.”

The NYCLU has been an outspoken advocate for data-driven correction practices that improve public safety and protect the basic humanity of people who are incarcerated. Today’s testimony follows calls to improve mental health care and reporting at Rikers as well as advocacy to improve the treatment of adolescents in city jails.

Among the NYCLU’s continued recommendations are:

· Reducing the enforcement of non-dangerous, noncriminal violations;

· Eliminating the practice of issuing bench warrants for people who miss a court date on a non criminal violation;

· Holding an oversight hearing to examine the city’s broken bail system;

· Reexamining the city’s mechanism for medical and mental health care of prisoners; and

· Collecting meaningful data on the conditions of confinement.

“Each of the 11 bills before the City Council today has its own merits, but taken together they are confusing and create an untenable reporting burden for city agencies,” said NYCLU Organizer Deandra Khan. “We are urging the City Council to work together to pass actionable, effective reporting requirements whose data will help increase accountability for misconduct by correction staff. Together we can dismantle the cycle of violence and institutionalization that persist for those impacted by the criminal justice system.”

To read the full testimony visit: http://www.nyclu.org/content/testimony-regarding-city-councils-examination-of-violence-nycs-jails

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