By NICHOLAS WILLIAMS
Cardinal Timothy Dolan led a group of prominent religious leaders on Thursday calling for the closure of Rikers Island prison at a press conference in front of Manhattan Supreme Court.
“Rikers has got to go,” Dolan said. “It is contrary to the Bible’s teaching to treat folks like this so harshly. It’s contrary to our American values of fairness and hope and justice. And you know what? It’s just plain contrary to common sense.”
Rikers long has been notorious as a breeding ground for violence, corruption, overcrowding and inhumane conditions. Mayor Bill de Blasio has backed plans to close it.
Dolan was joined by Former Chief Judge Johnathan Lippman, Reverend Alphonso Bernard, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, and The Commission of Religious Leaders as he discussed the corruption and violence in Rikers. The conference was held in hopes to bring more awareness and shed light on the moral imperative to close down the infamous jailhouse.
“At heart, this is a moral issue,” Lippman said. “This is about respect and dignity and ending this dehumanization.
“Our faith leaders recognize that now is the moment, this is once in a life time historic opportunity to close this horrible place and replace it with something that we can at least be proud of,” He added.
Through the process of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which publicly reviews the use of a certain land and determines if any changes need to be made, Lippman hopes this can be a step in the right direction to close down the jailhouse. The City Council has considered this proposal, which would replace the jails at Rikers with four borough based facilities. The final vote was expected to be held in mid-October.
“It’s an old prison that doesn’t work anymore,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said. “I’m convinced that the conditions there are beyond repair, we need something new, a new model, we need to rehabilitate people, not incarcerate them.”
According to Statisticalatlas.com, more than 80% of the population of Rikers are black or Latino. A recent Mayor’s Management Report showed violence between inmates rising to 69.5 incidents a month for every 1,000 people in the jail population in fiscal year 2019