Several criminal justice groups have formed a coalition to demand the city’s five district attorneys do more to combat the Rikers Island humanitarian crisis — specifically by setting hundreds of inmates free.
Advocacy groups such as the Vera Institute of Justice and Color of Change are calling on the chief prosecutors to adopt three new policies, which would see the estimated release of 2,000 incarcerated individuals.
The policies include releasing prisoners in jail facing low-level and nonviolent charges, relying on the city’s extensive network of community-based service providers, and alternatives to incarceration to individually review and consider release for everyone else, and no longer requesting bail amounts beyond what New Yorkers can afford.
The coalition recommending these policies believe that these actions would drastically decarcerate Rikers Island, helping to solve what many feel is a humanitarian crisis inside the prison. They also affirm this would not compromise public safety, citing a study from the Mayor’s office of Criminal Justice that indicates the overwhelming number of people released early from Rikers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic did not reoffend or lead to an uptick in crime.
The criminal justice groups also charge that the DAs currently in service have made little impact on the jail population and the underlying issues leading to 14 deaths on the prison island, this year alone. This push also comes directly before Election Day, and in an attempt to put those vying for office in the hot seat.
“We cannot wait for yet another death before our city’s top law enforcement leaders take action. Many of our organizations have privately and publicly urged [Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.] to do more to address the crisis at Rikers Island. Today, we are publicly calling on them to, at a minimum, adopt the following recommendations,” the coalition wrote in the letter.
In an attempt to put in greater pressure on the candidates, amNewYork Metro learned, the group is utilizing an advertisement campaign that will be hitting social media, YouTube and Television. This six figure ad campaign aims to broadly showcase and call for DAs to do more, especially if they seek the public’s vote. The advertisements are expected to launch later this week or earlier next week.