OPUS Mag

Far from timid • Caveat Lector

Closing Rikers: A Band-Aid on Internal Bleeding

Closing Rikers: A Band-Aid on Internal Bleeding

Everyone loves 'A Christmas Story'. At my age the 24-hour marathon during Christmas is one of my highlights of the whole holiday season. I've discovered a huge correlation in the film to some recent current event in NYC. It’s been confirmed there is a plan to close the infamous Rikers Island Correctional Center. Remember in A Christmas Story when Ralphie's dad had his prized lamp destroyed and he attempts to patch it back together with glue and tape? As Drake said "Nothing Was The Same".  The lamp appeared beyond repair. Well this is exactly what the Rikers announcement is: a failed attempt to repair the joke we call criminal justice in New York City and America as a whole.

The cries of corruption on Rikers have been placed on the forefront in recent years. Hours, days, years invested to highlight that reform is needed. Lives have been lost in this struggle. For what? The announcement of Rikers closing holds the same weight as advice from Steve Harvey. Jail conditions and procedures are easily in the top 5 of horrid conditions plaguing the reasoning for closure. But the main issue that has infested the whole United States is not being tackled:mass incarceration. What steps are emplaced to cut into the exponential rates of incarcerated people of color? Where is the reform in a system that is more backed up than our current president? (Can't tell me your wife finds you sexy if she refuses to live with you as the leader of the free world). However, back to the topic at hand; as of late 2016, there were still between 1,300 to 1,400 inmates on Rikers who have been awaiting trial for more than a year. Mayor de Blasio inherited a real shit show. He has taken a lot of blame for not adhering to wishes of our corrupt NYPD and repairing Rikers. His legacy, the little that is left, is going to take another huge dent for his announcement of closing Rikers. The announcement said the inmates will be spread out to smaller jails throughout the boroughs.. I'm still curious to where. Land isn't a highlight of our great city, almost every inch is utilized so will you have to pass the new local jail while walking your kid to school? Will your children be in recess and become curious what that DOC bus ofinmate is? That's not a conversation you should need to have with your child. Personally if you aren’t this is the time to reach out to your council representatives and community leaders. If we collectively and properly express the gripes, not through random marches and causing traffic, it’s possible we can have zoning laws enforced preventing our neighborhoods to become correctional havens of poor political planning.

You know who will benefit the most from the closure of Rikers? Real estate poachers; I foresee a Roosevelt Island 2.0 in the making. If you don’t believe me, check this. Durst Organization spokesman and lobbyist Jordon Barowitz told Politico, “land is a scarce resource in New York City and it could be developed and generate revenue for the city.” Again where are the relocating 10,000 inmates? Now if Mayor de Blasio is smart, he would convert the land where Rikers currently standing into a STRICTLY affordable housing complex. The low income/affordable housing program in NYC is a bigger joke than Kendell Jenner's Pepsi ad.

From now until the transition period of closing Rikers, the focus should be on getting into the asses of every officer, DA and judge. There is no reason men are sitting in Rikers for nonviolent crimes being forced to live like an animal. What methods will be ramped up to remove people who are sitting in Rikers due to crimes committed from a mental condition they suffer from? What is being done to ensure citizens are able to transition back into society after paying their debt to society? The answer isn't closing Rikers; it's to rehabilitate men and women who made a mistake in their life. Why is there controversy to pass the law prohibiting teenagers from being charged as adults?  One person on the opposition of the Raise The Act bill, Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said:

“They’re not little shoplifters or fare beaters, they’re gangsters, they’re murderers, they’re rapists, they're burglars, they’re violent thugs and they don’t deserve to receive a pass from the New York State Legislature.”

Look how legislation views us, instead of looking to provide opportunity to keep incarceration rates down they want to reaffirm the misconception that teenagers are violent beasts that they must punish. We aren't in the hood with aspirations to be a career criminal; we are just looking for opportunity. I'm not buying this wolf ticket presented. Closing Rikers is not going to help bring justice to all the families who had their lives destroyed due to a white supremacist criminal justice system. I'm not a doctor but I can confidently say a band-aid will not cure internal bleeding. I implore everyone however, don’t just tweet how messed up Rikers is, get active. There are a plethora of organizations involved with the pursuit of the closure or more importantly assisting inmates to adjust back into society. Reentry percentages into the justice system is pretty high but what is one suppose to do with little to no options? So let’s not wait until it’s too late, you have to treat NYC politicians like Ralphie in The Christmas Story because even after massive warning he shot his eye out. I can already hear the excuses for the failure of closing Rikers not improving conditions for inmates forced to succumb to the claws of the criminal justice system.                                                                           

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