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The City of New York has the power to close Rikers Island before the deadline of 2027. The Women’s Community Justice Association implores the city to close the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) sooner than 2027. We believe that as few people should be detained pretrial as possible and a replacement facility for women and gender expansive people should have a maximum occupancy of 100. It is known that 80% of women in jail are mothers and 86% have experienced interpersonal violence throughout their lives. Rikers and more specifically, RMSC fails these women, their families, and the people of New York City.

On November 6th, 2020 there were 219 women and gender expansive people detained or incarcerated on Rikers Island. 94% (206) of these individuals were held at the RMSC and the rest were detained in other facilities across Rikers. A majority (88%) of them were pretrial, being held on bond (42%) or were remanded (46%). Their bond ranged from $1 to $1,000,000 with an average of $66,870.50. The average length of stay for all pre-trial individuals on 11/6/20 was 111.5 days or about 3.6 months. We also know that 7 (3.2%) people were sentenced to state time and 34 (15%) had a parole warrant.

People had a range of 1 to 10 charges against them with over 55% (121) having 1 charge and 10% (25) having 4 or more charges. The most common charges by behavioral category were property charges (64) followed by homicide (57)  and then person (36). There were over 50 types of charges and about 30% (67) were charged with a B Felony followed by 17% (38) with a A Felony. About 6% (13) of people were charged with a ‘A’ Misdemeanors, of those charged with misdemeanors 85% (11) were pretrial and 5 were given bail or bond, and 1 person of the 5 offered bail or bond had a parole violation. This is an example of 4 people who are unable to be in their community because of their inability to afford their freedom. We believe this type of analysis is needed in order to decarcerate and keep the female and gender expansive pretrial population below 100. 

(For full list of charges please see the chart Number of Women Per Charge on November 6th, 2020)

General Data Points From Correctional Health About Women & Gender Expansive New Yorkers on Rikers

  • 23% have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI)
  • 18%  receive medicated assisted treatment (MAT)
  • 21%  identified as being homeless/ having unstable housing upon admittance to Rikers
  • 32% identified as being homeless/ having unstable housing upon release from Rikers

Policy Recommendations for the City of New York

  • Close the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island 
    • Urge judges to implement the new State pre-trial laws in ways that are consistent with their intent, including utilizing the least restrictive means to ensure return to court, and considering ability to pay when bail is set. 
    • Appoint and re-appoint judges who are committed to implementing the new State pre-trial laws in ways that are consistent with their intent, and who are committed to protecting the presumption of innocence for all people
    • Release all women and gender expansive people being detained pre-trial
    • Invest in funding more gender specific and trauma informed alternatives to incarceration and detention, with no exclusions based on severity of charge
    • Immediately identify a stand-alone site in a central location to relocate a much smaller number of detained women, under 100, to enable the closure of RMSC before the end of this administration.
  • Invest in healthcare and housing
    • Expand the number of justice impacted supportive housing beds (JISH) and allocate a percentage explicitly for women – including honoring the 320 additional beds promised in 2019 and ensuring adequate spots for women and gender non-conforming people
    • Pass Intro 2047, which prohibits housing discrimination in rentals, leases, subleases, or occupancy agreements in New York City, on the basis of arrest or criminal record.
    • Increase CityFEPs vouchers to market rate
    • Purchase vacant hotels to create permanent, deeply affordable housing 
    • Fund expanded field-based and center-based mental health treatment
    • Support quality harm reduction and substance addiction services in the community 
  • Support data consistency protocols and improve data transparency
    • DOCS should adopt data collection protocols that: 1) Record and responsibly provide a means for tracking one person across the system, and their demographics. And 2) ensure data is not overwritten as cases move through the system. This means keeping past records as well as the present.
    • Link records systems across agencies including but not limited to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Department of Homeless Services

Additional Graphs & Resources

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