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NYCLU Statement on City Council Vote to Close Rikers Island

Today, the City Council approved a proposal to close Rikers Island jail complex and build four borough-based jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

The New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from Executive Director, Donna Lieberman:

“Today’s vote marks the start of the long-overdue process to close Rikers Island and put an end to the culture of official lawlessness and abuse which it represents. Too many New Yorkers have died or suffered enormous and irreversible physical and psychological harm as a result of their mistreatment at Rikers — Kalief Browder, Layleen Polanco, and far too many others.

“As the City moves forward to close Rikers, it must ensure that any new jails be built and operated on the principles of dignity and respect, as well as safety and security. The City must end the overuse of solitary confinement and provide robust physical and mental health services, rehabilitation, and re-entry programs. As the City commits to building new jails, it is essential that it also continues every effort to reduce the jail population. 

“When Rikers eventually shutters and the last person leaves the island, the abhorrent culture that has always plagued the facility must not follow it. We plan to hold the City accountable to ensure that its culture of violence and over-reliance of inhumane isolation are not perpetuated.” 

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