We take an in-depth look at the growing humanitarian crisis at the world’s largest jail complex, Rikers Island in New York City. After touring the jail, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams describes it as “a disaster.” In response to mounting public pressure, most of the women and transgender people at Rikers are being transferred to two prisons, including a maximum-security facility, even as most are still awaiting trial. “It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound,” says Anisah Sabur, who was formerly incarcerated at Rikers and one of the prisons and is now a leader with the HALT Solitary Campaign. Prosecutors and judges “hold the keys to Rikers,” notes Jullian Harris-Calvin, director of the Greater Justice New York program at the Vera Institute of Justice, who says they must be pressured to continue bail reform and not fall prey to misconceptions about crime rates, and instead adopt measures to adequately address public safety. “We need to make bail affordable or just release them,” Harris-Calvin says.
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