Oct 9, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
A number of immigration organizations and some elected officials are holding three days of rallies across Queens and Brooklyn in opposition to the mayor’s borough-based jail plan.
The groups–as well as elected officials such as Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer- are calling for the closure of Rikers Island but without the construction of new jails. They argue this can be done by reducing the prison population from about 7,000 today to 3,000 by 2026 through justice reform.
The city, however, only has room for 2,100 prisoners in its jails outside Rikers Island.
The rallies started on Wednesday in Jackson Heights and will conclude in Brooklyn on Friday.
Wednesday’s rally took place at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, while Thursday’s rally will take place at 5 p.m. at the intersection of Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill.
The final rally will take place Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Avenue C Plaza in Kensington, Brooklyn.
The Jackson Heights rally was attended by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and immigrant advocacy groups Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), Immigrant Defense Project and Detention Watch Network among other organizations.
Thursday’s rally will be attended by Council Member Inez Barron, while Brooklyn Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel is slated to attend Friday’s rally.
DRUM is holding the rallies ahead of next week’s City Council vote on the mayor’s plan to shut Rikers Island and replace it with four borough-based jails in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. The plan will cost about $11 billion.
The City Council vote is essentially the last step in the process, via ULURP, before the mayor’s plan is officially approved.
On Wednesday, the protest group argued that no jails are necessary in order to close Rikers since the city’s jail population is falling.
They said that the money would be better spent on improving schools, fixing public housing and the subways, creating job programs and providing more care for physical and mental illnesses.
The protest groups also contend that any new jails would put immigrant communities at a greater risk of being detained and deported.
Van Bramer took to Twitter after the rally and reiterated his opposition to the new jail plan.
“We should not be pouring $10 billion back into a failed, racist system that criminalizes poverty & thrives on terrorizing immigrant communities,” Van Bramer said on Twitter.
Last week, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a similar stance and said that Rikers could be closed without any new jails being built.
She endorsed a report from advocacy group No New Jails, which says the city can reduce its jail population to 3,000 by 2026 and house inmates in the current correctional facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
However, the city said that the No New Jails concept is implausible. The mayor’s office forecasts that there will be around 4,000 inmates in New York by 2026 and that there are only 2,100 beds in the current borough jails – 900 less than the population No New Jails forecasted and just over half of what the city predicts.
The mayor’s office said that it was not possible to close Rikers without building new jails and said that Rikers would remain open if no new jails are built.
Proud to stand with @DesisRisingUp & immigrant community organizations in opposing the new jails plan. We should not be pouring $10 billion back into a failed, racist system that criminalizes poverty & thrives on terrorizing immigrant communities. #NoNewJails #CloseRikersNow pic.twitter.com/4DBbcRYbr8
— Jimmy Van Bramer (@JimmyVanBramer) October 9, 2019