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To: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

Dear Mayor Bill de Blasio: Close Rikers and Invest in Restorative Justice

As clergy and people of faith and conscience, we back New York Governor Cuomo and NYC City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito calling on you to close Rikers, and redirect the $208,500/year it costs to house each inmate into restorative criminal justice programs across New York City’s five boroughs.

Why is this important?

When 16-year-old Kalief Browder was sent to Rikers in May 2010 for allegedly stealing a backpack, his family could not afford the $10,000 bail. He spent nearly three years awaiting trial with no conviction, two of them in solitary confinement, fighting for his life in a place notorious for rampant violence by inmates and correction officers alike.

At age 22, this innocent young black man committed suicide.

Nearly 8 out of 10 people at Rikers have not been convicted of a crime – they are waiting for a trial. And the majority of those held cannot afford bail. As of 2015, 41 percent of those detained at Rikers had a mental health issue. This is more than all the adult patients at New York State psychiatric hospitals combined.

In the new Bill Moyers documentary, “Rikers,” former detainee Ralph Nuñez said, “It’s gladiator school for real. If you get there and you don’t have a weapon to defend yourself, you have an issue.” You can watch the full documentary below.

Rikers is a place dangerous to the flesh, a place where surviving turns you inside out and erodes your soul. As people of faith, it is our moral responsibility to stand for the marginalized, to care for the poor, to have compassion for the children of God who are behind bars, whose lives are shattered, and who live in danger every day.

New York City has a history of failed reforms for Rikers. Though Governor Cuomo and City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito have both have called for Rikers to be closed, Mayor de Blasio has said it would be too complicated and too expensive to do so.

Locking up just one person at Rikers costs $208,500 a year – a price New Yorkers pay with our taxes. Imagine those funds redirected to more just systems and centers in the five boroughs. And as we think about comprehensive solutions, we must create bail reform, “speedy trial” reform and alternatives to incarceration.

How it will be delivered

Concerned citizens, people of faith, and clergy will deliver this petition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s home at a prayer vigil surrounding Gracie Mansion on Sunday, December 4 at 3:30 pm. You can join us here:

Rikers Island, NY, United States

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


2016-11-17 14:39:12 -0500

1,000 signatures reached

2016-11-17 13:36:37 -0500

500 signatures reached

2016-11-17 13:15:44 -0500

100 signatures reached

2016-11-16 08:25:31 -0500

50 signatures reached

2016-11-13 16:23:27 -0500

25 signatures reached

2016-11-10 18:05:43 -0500

10 signatures reached