Advocates holding 18-hour rally shut down Rikers Island following rising inmate death toll
Frustration is boiling as New York City community members call for action to close down Rikers Island following the 18th inmate death this year.
The rally lasted 18 hours to mark the 18 inmates who have died this year in custody or soon after being released from the Department of Correction's custody. Family members, former inmates and local organizations are calling on the mayor to take action.
Along with the closing of the jail, the group wants the mayor and city officials to release people from city jails, create a public plan to stop arresting and incarcerating people with mental health needs, and to end solitary confinement.
Those points were voiced outside of City Hall all day today, followed by a 7 p.m. vigil for the lives lost this year in New York City jails. The group says they have been rallying since 6 a.m. and plan to be out for the full 18 hours.
On the sidewalk outside City Hall Park, they have laid out 18 body bags labelled "DOC" to represent those 18 lost lives. Headstones line the fence with the name and age of each incarcerated person who passed away in custody or shortly following release.
In response to the call to end solitary confinement, correction officers have argued that it’s necessary when dealing with violent inmates.
The Department of Correction provided the following statement:
"We extend our deepest condolences to the families who have lost a loved one. We fully agree with advocates' commitment to improving conditions and we're working around the clock to fix the rippling effect of years of mismanagement and neglect within our jails. While we are proud of progress made, it takes time to see results and turning our jails around requires a collaborative effort, transparency, and hard work. We will continue to utilize all of the tools at our disposal to improve conditions for everyone who lives and works in our facilities."