‘For many years, criminalized communities have been calling on elected leaders to fund our faculties, our parks, our hospitals, our group facilities, our entry to steady properties and extra.’
This week, after a year-long delay, a fee to make suggestions on reinvestment in communities impacted by Rikers Island will convene for its first assembly. The work of this fee is crucial and lengthy overdue. Mass incarceration is not going to finish in New York Metropolis with out mass investments into impacted communities. That is the place social justice and financial justice intersect. Immediately impacted folks recognized this many years in the past as a way to sort out the basis causes of incarceration.
Between 1979 and 1980, incarcerated males at Inexperienced Haven Correctional Facility carried out analysis that got here to be referred to as the Seven Neighborhood Research. It revealed that over 75 % of New York State’s jail inhabitants got here from seven New York Metropolis neighborhoods (the South Bronx, Harlem, Decrease East Facet, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, South Jamaica). These communities have been traditionally disadvantaged of assets after which criminalized of their wrestle to outlive. Right now, about 40,000 New Yorkers yearly cycle by means of Rikers from these exact same neighborhoods.
In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic not solely put New York Metropolis on halt however it revealed what Black and Brown communities already knew. In what would be the wealthiest metropolis on the planet, now we have a few of the grossest racial and sophistication disparities in well being care, housing, and public security. New York Metropolis was the epicenter of America’s COVID-19 disaster. Poor and dealing class communities of colour, together with the seven neighborhoods, had been hit terribly arduous by the pandemic. A spot the place social distancing and staying wholesome was practically inconceivable even earlier than the specter of a pandemic, Rikers Island has turn into the epicenter of the epicenter of COVID-19. It’s also floor zero for the intersectional injustice exacerbated by our present public well being disaster.
Many New Yorkers don’t know that on Oct. 17, 2019, the New York Metropolis Council handed what’s now Native Regulation 193, sponsored by Council Member Stephen Levin, to determine a fee on group funding together with their vote to shut Rikers. This was a response to advocates’ calls to not solely transfer ahead with the closure of Rikers Island however to concurrently redistribute assets into impacted communities—to restore the harms of mass incarceration, and usher in a brand new method to public security. Additionally in response to the work of advocates, at the least half of the appointees are individuals who will deliver their lived expertise of incarceration to this historic fee.
In line with Native Regulation 193, each metropolis company impacted by this legislation will likely be required to facilitate this endeavor with the “acceptable employees and assets to assist the work of such company associated to the fee.” The fee may even interact folks impacted by criminalization and incarceration, group primarily based organizations, and repair suppliers in figuring out fast and long run funding wants. Thereafter, the fee will submit its report with suggestions. “Inside 60 days after publication of the fee’s report,” the legislation states, “the mayor of the town of New York shall publish a response to every advice revealed by the fee.”
Because of its delayed begin, the fee—which was initially presupposed to convene by April of final 12 months—will situation its first set of suggestions on the finish of 2021. However there isn’t a want to attend till then to begin on this realignment of assets to reckon with the legacy of Rikers.
For many years, criminalized communities have been calling on elected leaders to fund our faculties, our parks, our hospitals, our group facilities, our entry to steady properties and extra. Mayor Invoice de Blasio and the Metropolis Council can begin on this price range cycle, by lastly shifting substantial assets away from methods of punishment towards methods of assist. For all of these aspiring to be New York Metropolis’s subsequent elected leaders—you should commit to completely supporting the work of this fee and following by means of on its suggestions. Our communities have already been ready too lengthy for the investments we deserve.
Darren Mack is a survivor of Rikers, a co-director of Freedom Agenda, and member of the fee to make suggestions on reinvestment in communities impacted by Rikers Island.