What Does Closing Rikers Mean for Brooklyn?
Center for Criminal Justice convenes timely symposium
IN MARCH 2018, faculty, elected officials, attorneys, and reform advocates gathered at Brooklyn Law School to discuss Mayor Bill de Blasio’s intention to close the Rikers Island prison complex over the next 10 years, replacing it with a system of smaller, borough-based jails.
During the symposium, “Decarcerate Brooklyn: What Closing Rikers Means for Our Borough,” Professor Jocelyn Simonson, codirector of the Center for Criminal Justice, moderated a panel discussion with Tina Luongo ’02, attorney-in-charge of criminal practice at the Legal Aid Society; Stephen Levin, New York City council member representing the 33rd District, Brooklyn; Jill Harris, policy and strategy counsel in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office; Rogelio Headley, community leader at VOCAL-NY; and Darren Mack, JustLeadership USA member and #CLOSErikers campaign leader.
Mack, who served time at Rikers when he was 17 years old, called it “the Abu Ghraib of New York,” adding that no human being should ever go through what he experienced at the facility.
Luongo called for measures including bail reform and improved discovery procedures but said that much more needs to be done. “Every single reform that we’re doing here in New York City [is] just scratching the surface,” she said. “We need legislative reform in Albany to move.”
“This is the kind of discussion that the Center for Criminal Justice here at Brooklyn Law School was launched three years ago to generate: a debate over one of the most important issues of social justice and public safety, among affected people on all sides of the issue,” said Simonson. “This is a time in our local history when we are truly able to say that change in the landscape of local criminal justice is possible.”