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Home » Resolutions » IND Resolution in Support of Closing Rikers and the Youth Justice and Opportunities Act

IND Resolution in Support of Closing Rikers and the Youth Justice and Opportunities Act

WHEREAS, the mission of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND) includes “bring[ing] the people of the 52nd Assembly District into active participation in the political process; engag[ing] with neighborhood organizations and groups to foster a greater civic and political voice for our community, translat[ing] civic activity into positive political activity, encourag[ing] enrollment in the Democratic Party, and elect[ing] Democratic candidates responsive to the needs of the community;” and

WHEREAS, the General Membership of IND was moved by the presentation by Ryan Acquaotta from the Campaign to Close Rikers at its April 2024 Meeting; and

WHEREAS, IND has previously supported various criminal justice reforms; and

WHEREAS, New York City’s Rikers Island consists of 10 jails which, in total, can house approximately 14,700 detainees; and

WHEREAS, 90% of detainees on Rikers Island are those awaiting trial and many are there because they cannot afford bail; and

WHEREAS, since the island itself was literally built from garbage which leads to methane gas emissions, infestations, and discolored water, Rikers Island creates an inhumane living environment; and

WHEREAS, the New York City Board of Corrections, which is supposed to have oversight over Rikers Island, has been routinely prevented from getting information about the way the jail complex operates; and 

WHEREAS, due to how it is only accessible via one bridge and one bus line, Rikers Island effectively isolates detainees from their community though studies have shown that the single best way to reduce recidivism is for those who are incarcerated to have connections to their personal support network; and

WHEREAS, opening community jails would allow detainees greater ability to maintain connections with loved ones and their community; and

WHEREAS, according to a report from Columbia University, almost a quarter of all detainees at Riker’s Island are between the ages of 18 and 25; and

WHEREAS, studies have proven that the human brain does not fully develop until the age of 25, particularly in the area of the prefrontal cortex, which helps in decision-making; and

WHEREAS, while New York has “raised the age” of criminal responsibility to 19, many people under the age of 25, especially those of color, are still being convicted and given harsh sentences which can have cascading impacts on their ability to get an education, employment, and housing, creating a vicious cycle of recidivism; and

WHEREAS, the Youth Justice and Opportunities Act (S3426/A4238) would create a new “young adult” status for people between the ages of 19 and 25; make youthful offender status mandatory for low-level infractions like turnstile jumping and shoplifting; give judges more leeway in granting youthful offender status and giving alternatives to incarceration as sentences; allow judges to waive fees and surcharges for those under 25; and allow young people with criminal records to petition the court to be “re-sentenced” and granted youthful offender or young adult status retroactively; and

WHEREAS, closing Rikers Island and passing the Youth Justice and Opportunities Act would be two steps forward in New York in fixing the systemic issue of mass incarceration. Now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Independent Neighborhood Democrats call on the New York City Council and Mayor Eric Adams to expeditiously close Rikers Island once and for all and to move all detainees into community jails in their home borough; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Independent Neighborhood Democrats call on the New York State Legislature to pass and Governor Hochul to sign the Youth Justice and Opportunities Act (S3426/A4238).

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