New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has already made a proposal to shut down Rikers Island and replace it with new jails in every borough. Following this, Public Advocate Letitia James has shown her support to shut it down. She also proposed an idea to rename the island after Kalief Browder, the young Bronx native who took his own life after suffering brutality behind bars.
Browder was only 16-years-old when he was charged with stealing a backpack in May of 2010. The case never went to trial and Browder was released from jail three years later. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement. He hung himself from an air conditioner in 2015 in his parents home.
“We must do everything in our power to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair, transparent and accountable,” James said in a recent press conference.
“Rikers is a mass incarceration model that stains everything that it touches,” said former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. “Rikers is by any standard a penal colony. It’s a penal colony. It’s a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.”
A panel of inmate advocates and several elected officials proposed Rikers with several smaller jails, placing one in each borough. They would also be closer to the courthouses and the entire process is expected to take at least 10 years and $10.6 billion to accomplish.
“It’s really appreciative and thoughtful,” said Kalief’s older brother Akeem Browder, 34. “But it’s something we’d have to think over. The people should have this victory…Maybe people will look at the Kalief Island, if they want to dub it that, and remember the tragedy that my brother went through.”