By Travis Morales, Stop Mass Incarceration Network, supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party
This week NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said the idea of closing Rikers Jail complex is “unrealistic." A New York Times article quoted deBlasio about the "difficulties" of doing this, because you "have to look out for what's feasible."
Tell us, Mayor de Blasio, how exactly do you define "feasible"? Is the death of Khalief Browder, Mayor, who finally had his charges dropped after being forced into Rikers at 16, spending two years in the torture of solitary confinement, and repeatedly brutalized by prison guards and other inmates, feasible? He was so damaged mentally and physically by what had happened to him in Rikers that he took his own life after getting out. How about the "feasibility" of that, Mayor – after all, Khalief Browder ended up in Rikers on the accusation of stealing a backpack, charges which were dropped, and which he steadfastly denied?
New York City has settled multiple lawsuits over the brutality at Rikers and the deaths of prisoners, yet the City still is unable, or unwilling, to stop guards from killing. Are fractured jaws, broken bones, denial of medical care, cover-ups and retaliation against those who report torture and brutality, and rampant sexual violence against women and LGBT people as well as men, acceptable in a humane society?
Are you saying it is it "feasible," Mayor, that more than 10,000 human beings – many of them adolescents and overwhelmingly Black or Latino - are, on average, jammed into Rikers each night and that 85 percent of them are there not because they have been convicted of some offense (and even if they had been tried and convicted this barbarity could never be - justified) but because they do not have the bail money required to get out? They have not had a trial or been convicted of a crime, and at least 400 of these have been at Rikers for at least two years.
Some 1,400 have been waiting at least one year to have their cases settled, some of them arrested for offenses that wouldn't even have sent them to jail for that long if they had been found guilty! With good cause, many call Rikers the "Abu Ghraib" of New York City.
In fact, what you are saying, Mayor de Blasio, is that it's "feasible" to continue the inhumane brutality and barbarity inflicted on people at Rikers because ending it is too difficult. This statement of yours alone would be enough to indict not only the existence of hellholes like Rikers, but the existence of the whole political and economic system of capitalism-imperialism that depends on such hellholes and its armed enforcers to control, suppress, terrorize and try to destroy whole sections of people. You cannot even hold people without having them die of abuse and medical neglect! Your system has no legitimate basis to lock people up under those conditions. In fact, if you and your system cannot do better than this, then your capitlaist-imperialist system needs to get out of the way.
Yes, we need a revolution, nothing less, to end the nightmare of police terror and mass incarceration, your wars for empire, the destruaction of the very ability of the planet to sustain human life, the pornified oppression and degradation of women, the world wide mass roundup and deportation of immigrants and all the whole nightmare this system brings down on people. We need a revolution to bring into being a world where the lives of billions of youth like Kalief Browder are not treated like useless garbage but are valued and treasured, treated like human beings.
It is outrageous that, when a corrections officer at Rikers admitted she lied in claiming she carried out mandatory checks on prisoner Jerome Murdaugh, a homeless prisoner who essentially cooked to death in a cell, she was given probation for her role in his death. Yet, Clark Kissinger & Miles Solay, acting in response to such outrages, face jail time – at Rikers – for their actions in support of justice.
On Tuesday, April 12, Clark Kissinger & Miles Solay are set for trial on charges of "obstructing government administration" for answering the Call to Shut Down Rikers and protesting, along with 100 others, at the entrance to Rikers on October 23, 2015, demanding #ShutDownRikers.
Rikers Island must be closed. The Call to Shut Down Rikers for #RiseUpOctober says: "The time for wringing our hands is over. The time for cosmetic but essentially meaningless reforms is over. A line must be drawn. People of conscience must put out bodies on the line to stop this depravity and barbarity, else we ourselves are complicit."