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Statement from The Fortune Society on the decision to close Rikers Island

The Fortune Society fully supports Judge Lippman’s recommendations and the decision by the Mayor and Speaker to close Rikers Island. The broad strategies laid out by the Mayor early this week (reentry services for people incarcerated in City jails) and this announcement today, including a commitment to sharply reducing the number of people in our jails, show that New York City’s leaders have heard the voices of the community and those most impacted by the criminal justice system.

The benefits of closing Rikers are myriad. For families whose loved ones are incarcerated, the trip to Rikers Island is a brutal ordeal. One of the most important factors to stabilizing someone upon release is the strength of the relationship with family. Keeping people who are incarcerated closer to their families increases the opportunity to visit and helps keep familial bonds strong including those between parents and children.

Also, the strength of legal representation is compromised by the inability of attorneys to reach their clients. Closing Rikers will help ensure that detained individuals are closer to the courts where they will be tried and have critical and easier access to their lawyers.

During the course of our 50-year history, Fortune has helped hundreds of thousands of people re-build their lives. We know what works, and Rikers does not work.
The Mayor is right. We ARE better than Rikers, and the decision to close it down demonstrates that New York City is committed to a fairer and more humane justice system.

Fortune’s staff, and the more than 6,500 formerly incarcerated men and women we serve every year, stand ready to engage and support the Mayor and Speaker in helping to reduce the number of people caught up in our justice system, in providing critically needed services to those incarcerated and after release, and in ending Rikers’ painful legacy.

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