The Fortune Society News of the Week — the week of April 3, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.

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Report from Jonathan Lippman to close Rikers Island jail: ‘A More Just New York City’

For more than 20 years, New York City has successfully driven down both crime and incarceration. The City has proven that more jail does not equal greater public safety. Indeed, an emerging body of research suggests that jail can actually make us less safe, leading to more criminal behavior and undermining the health of families and communities alike. We believe that a twenty-first century justice system must acknowledge the multiple harms that incarceration, and Rikers Island in particular, has caused hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, their families, and their communities.

Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform

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[A formerly incarcerated individuals] says [Rikers Island] was ‘huge, unmanageable’

Inside Rikers, the 400-acre facility known to many as ‘Torture Island,’ is where Stanley Richards [, The Fortune Society’s Executive Vice President,] did his time in the late 80s for robbery and drugs. “I was in solitary confinement in Rikers in cells, in dorms. It’s huge, it’s unmanageable – this work for me is not about work, it’s personal,” he says. Richards is part of a special commission that submitted to a report, a key factor behind Mayor Bill de Blasio’s historic announcement to close Rikers within the next 10 years.

ABC 7

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Members of Commission Calling for Rikers Closure

Why was Rikers Island in need of closure, and what are the next steps now that it is? Our Executive Vice President, Stanley Richards, and Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explain all this and more. Watch now, on FOX 5 New York.

Fox 5 NY

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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito announce 10 year plan to close Rikers Island

I’m here with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to make what is really a historic announcement. New York City will close the Rikers Island jail facility. It will take many years, it will take many tough decisions along the way, but it will happen. Speaker Mark-Viverito and I have reached an agreement on how to proceed, and we look forward to working together in the years to come to make this a reality.

NYC.gov

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New report shows what closing Rikers Island means for NYC

Plans for Rikers Island were revealed Sunday after Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to close the jail facility Friday. “I saw fights [, where people got stabbed;] it really is survival of the fittest when you’re in there,” said Stanley Richards [The Fortune Society’s Executive Vice President] and a member of the commission, [who experienced incarceration] when he was a [young adult…]

PIX11 News

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City vows to close Rikers

The commission’s report recommends that the five jail sites be closer to court facilities, which they said would reduce the annual $31 million cost of transporting [incarcerated individuals] to and from court hearings, and would also provide [these individuals] with more opportunities to see their families, which would help in their rehabilitation. The scrutiny reached new heights in 2015 after Kalief Browder, a Bronx teenager, hanged himself following his time in Rikers.

Normangee Star

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Closing Rikers Island is a moral imperative

The time has come to close Rikers Island. New York City’s sprawling main jail, located on an island in the East River, is a stain on our great city’s reputation. It leaves its mark on everyone it touches: the correction officers working back-to-back shifts under dangerous conditions, the [justice-involved individuals] waiting for their day in court in an inhumane and violent environment, the family members forced to travel long distances to see their loved ones and the taxpayers who spend billions of dollars to keep the whole dysfunctional apparatus running.

The New York Times

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‘Belly of the beast’: [formerly incarcerated individuals] hail New York plan to close Rikers Island jail

When Vidal Guzman ended up at the notorious Rikers Island jail in New York, he underwent a transformation. “I had to become someone I was not,” he said. “I had no idea a place in my city could be so harsh and so violent. Getting into vicious fights was part of everyday life, part of survival, there were fights over everything – a phone, food, something small you owned. I’ve seen people get badly cut, and often the guards let it happen.”

The Guardian

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Letter from David Rothenberg to The New York Times: Saving prison visits

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York could cut the prison budget and save seven-day prison visitations. It would take some creativity and political courage. A decrease in the prison population would result in the closing of at least one institution, saving millions of dollars.

The New York Times

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A bad idea to cut prison visitations

No one disputes how important these visits are to [incarcerated individuals] and their families. Research shows that [incarcerated individuals] who get regular visits from their families are more likely to do well upon their release, are less likely to commit new crimes and may even be less violent while in prison — keeping people safer and reducing costs to taxpayers.

The New York Times

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[Justice-involved individuals] leaving NYC jails will be guaranteed jobs, De Blasio says

Every one of New York City’s estimated 8,500 [incarcerated individuals] sentenced to time in city jails will leave with guaranteed, minimum-wage, short-term jobs likes cooks, restaurant bussers, or construction flaggers under a policy announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The aim is to reduce recidivism, de Blasio said at a news conference at [The Fortune Society] in Queens.

Newsday

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Press Release: Mayor de Blasio announces re-entry services for everyone in city jails by end of this year

Mayor de Blasio today announced that by the end of this year, every person in the Department of Correction’s custody will receive re-entry services to help connect them with jobs and opportunities outside of jail. “Everyone deserves a second chance. We’re working to break the cycle of returning to jail for those in City custody by making sure they have opportunities to learn and grow while in jail, and connecting them with the re-entry services to support a pathway to stability when they leave,” he said.

NYC.gov

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New York State prisons to fight contraband smuggling by banning packages for [incarcerated individuals]

The state Department of Corrections plans to bar visitors from bringing packages to [incarcerated indviduals] to cut down on contraband being brought inside, the Daily News has learned. “It’s another example of the poorest and the most marginalized population continually paying the price for policy on the state level that we should really just stop,” said Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President of The Fortune Society, [an organization] that helps [justice-involved individuals] get back on their feet.

NY Daily News

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Examining health care in U.S. prisons

Providing [incarcerated individuals] with health care is politically unpopular. Indeed, during the Bush administration, former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona stated that the administration had blocked the release of the Surgeon General’s Report, Call to Action on Corrections in Community Health, for fear that the report would increase government spending on [justice-involved individuals]. However, the constitutional, public health, and human rights imperatives of improving health care in prisons and jails are clear.

The Philadelphia Tribune

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Education is the key to redeeming lives in prison

In today’s knowledge economy, higher education is one of the first rungs on the ladder to economic freedom and social mobility. Too many formerly incarcerated Americans never climb this ladder — or reach for it at all. The lack of high-quality education and job training options for [justice-involved individuals] have led to the vast majority being woefully underprepared to re-enter society. Their skill gaps make our communities less safe — and families less stable — since without better options, many will return to the lifestyles that got them into trouble in the first place.

Gant Daily

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