AOC Assails Rikers Closing Plan: ‘We Shouldn’t Build More Jails’

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking to John Jay College students Thursday. Photo by Hing Potter

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is opposing the de Blasio administration’s plan to replace Rikers Island with four borough-based jails, just as the City Council prepares to vote on the controversial proposal later this month, reports Politico.

The city’s plan calls for closing the notoriously violent jail complex by 2026 and housing a dramatically reduced jail population in four newly constructed facilities. The plan responded to a large grass-roots movement to close Rikers as well as the findings of an independent commission peopled by two dozen experts that published “A More Just New York City.”

Earlier this week, New York City lawmakers presented an expanded inmates’ bill of rights and other reforms ahead of a critical vote on replacing Rikers.

City Council Criminal Justice Committee Chair Keith Powers proposed measures that would require staff to provide inmates with a written bill of rights when they enter jail, including policies of nondiscriminatory treatment, recreation, visitation, phone calls and more, consistent with state and federal laws.

The Powers plan is designed to follow an Oct. 17 vote on a land-use plan to replace Rikers with four smaller jails in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Powers said he is confident the City Council will pass the land-use plan allowing the city to move ahead with its proposal.

But Ocasio-Cortez has another view, according to her statements at a constituents meeting in Queens, New York, and an Instagram story she shared with her four million followers on Wednesday.

“We shouldn’t be building new jails,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the post. “This plan is presented as what’s necessary to #CloseRikers, but the plan itself doesn’t even include the closure of Rikers.”

She said in the post she was on her way to meeting with constituents about No New Jails NYC, “a group that’s been mobilizing against the administration’s plan and opposes the construction of any new jails, even those replacing existing facilities,” reported Politico.

Ocasio-Cortez then said at a constituent meeting Thursday, “This is a vote I personally would like to see, at the bare minimum, delayed.” Queens Spectrum reported, “Another point of @AOC opposition to closing : She says city shouldn’t be making any investment towards jailing people. Priorities should be homelessness, housing and transportation.”

The New York Daily News editorial board said today, “While not surprising, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s embrace of the simplistic #nonewjails hashtag is depressing. It is counterproductive for the people she claims to champion.”

“New York’s entire political establishment agrees that the old, inaccessible, inhumane, fetid jails at Rikers Island, which now house about 4,000 pretrial detainees (another 1,500 are serving sentences), should be shuttered.”

 

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