Politics

In her State of the City, Mark-Viverito sets sights on closing Rikers

William Alatriste for the New York City Council

Invoking the namesake of Samuel Gompers High School where she gave her State of the City address Thursday, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito described the turn-of-the-20th-century organized labor leader as an “iconic pioneer” whose legacy lives on in the current fight to raise the minimum wage and mandate paid family leave – as well as the pursuit of a more equitable criminal justice system.

In her address, Mark-Viverito made a series of police and correction proposals meant to ultimately decrease the Rikers Island detention centers’ populations to the point that closing them would be feasible. Like last year, her speech highlighted the story of Kalief Browder, a Bronx teen who spent years at Rikers Island awaiting a trial on charges that were eventually dropped, and who later took his own life.

“Rikers Island has come to represent our worst tendencies and our biggest failures,” Mark-Viverito said. “It is where Kalief suffered and his spirit broke down. For too long, Rikers has not stood for more justice, but for revenge. We must explore how we can get the population on Rikers to be so small that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality.”

The speaker said she would tap former state Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to lead a commission to create a blueprint for criminal justice reform, with the end goal of eliminating the need for Rikers. The group would recommend ways to move youth and those with mental health problems off Rikers, increase the number of community courts, expand borough-based jail facilities, reduce pretrial incarceration rates and find alternatives to incarceration. Mark-Viverito stressed that of the roughly 70,000 admitted to city jails each year, only 16 percent wind up sentenced to prison. She also said the $25 million the city spends transporting inmates to court suggests the current model is inefficient.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said the average daily city jail population has dropped 10 percent since fiscal year 2014, and the mayor has announced plans expected to further reduce the city’s jail population by 2,000.

“Safely reducing the Rikers population is one of our top priorities, which is why we’ve launched numerous programs to achieve this goal – including bail and summons reform, case processing, gun fast-tracking, and our important work with Speaker Mark-Viverito on the bail fund,” de Blasio spokeswoman Monica Klein said in a statement. “Wherever we house our jails, we will continue reducing our jail population – as a matter of fairness, justice, and safety. We look forward to working closely with this new Commission on these essential issues.”

Beyond the commission, Mark-Viverito called for creating an inspector general to oversee the city Department of Correction, for Albany to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and for the creation of a central diversion hub that offers an array of classes, as well as drug treatment, job search and housing resources for those recently incarcerated. When asked to comment, the de Blasio administration pointed out that the city’s Department of Investigation has an inspector general dedicated to the Department of Correction and staff members who focus on Rikers.

More broadly, the speaker said she would like the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to create a crime victims service coordinator who would manage assistance across several city agencies and wants the administration to draft multi-agency plans to provide targeted social services in high-crime areas.

Mark-Viverito singled out a package of bills called the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which would encourage police to give civil tickets for nonviolent, low-level offenses like drinking in public, rather than steering them through the criminal court system. Klein, the de Blasio spokeswoman, said the administration looked forward to discussing the details of the Criminal Justice Reform Act with the council. Still, the speaker said the city is poised to adopt this approach, therefore it only makes sense to establish a system for clearing some of the 1.5 million active summons warrants for minor, low-level offenses when the person in question has otherwise stayed out of trouble.

“The CJRA will ensure there are far more proportionate enforcement and penalties for low-level offenses because giving someone a permanent criminal record for being in a park after dark is simply not fair or proportionate,” Mark-Viverito said. “And spending the night in jail on a 10-year-old warrant for being in the park after dark is not just unfair, it’s senseless. And this is exactly what is happening every day in our city thanks to the over 1.5 million active summons warrants on our books. This makes even less sense now since under the Criminal Justice Reform Act that person would likely receive only a civil penalty for the violation with no possibility of a warrant, no possibility of a criminal record and no possibility of spending a night in jail. That is why our next step must be to reform our warrant system.”

Klein said de Blasio was also focused on reducing the number of outstanding warrants.

“We’ve taken clear steps to increase summons court appearances and drive down summons warrants,” Klein said in a statement. “This includes creating flexible appearance dates, simplifying the summons form, and launching a new reminder system. We look forward to discussing the speaker’s proposal with members of the criminal justice community.”

Throughout the speech, Mark-Viverito referred to a Samuel Gompers quote, saying, “We need more justice, less revenge.” Her use of the word “revenge” initially evoked tepid claps. But by the end of the speech, when Mark-Viverito thanked Browder’s mother for attending, the audience rose to salute Browder and delivered one of the loudest ovations of the day.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.