Ex-Rikers inmates, advocates plead to close Rikers sooner than later

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MOTT HAVEN -

Former Rikers Island inmates joined other community leaders Monday night to call for more to be done to close the infamous prison as soon as possible.

Despite rainy conditions, dozens came out to BronxWorks Betances Community Center for a public forum that they say is key to getting Rikers closed for good.

Bronx Connect staff laid out ground rules -- love, respect, honor -- before the discussion. The push to permanently close Rikers in favor of building one jail per borough, except in Staten Island, has been gaining traction over time.

The city Planning Commission has even approved Mayor Bill de Blasio's 10-year plan earlier this year to close the jail. But panelists say change isn't happening soon enough.

Former inmates turned advocates shared their experiences at Rikers, citing violent run-ins with corrections officers, poor conditions and unethical treatment. They say progress is being made with recent bail reform, but that change isn't happening quick enough. They also say the needs of females inmates must be addressed.

Advocates say they'll keep working to lead discussions on additional issues from who will run the new facilities to how to keep people out of the prison system in the first place.

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