Posted on May 20, 2019
Bronx panel groups: ‘Close Rikers & the Sink the Barge’
Bronx advocates are pushing the city to close Rikers Island and Hunts Point’s Vernon C. Bain jail barge by its 2027 goal, if not quicker. Three community groups known as Bronx Connect, Bronx Defenders and the Close Rikers Campaign held a community forum about the jail system in Betances Center on Monday. A panel of criminal justice reform advocates spoke to the nearly full community center. Each speaker had spent time on either Rikers Island or on the Bain jail barge, sharing personal experiences that supported the planned shutdown.
One panelist, Marvin Mayfield had protested the jail barge with Councilman Rafael Salamanca, Jr. in 2018. After spending time in the dilapidated facility for a non-violent offense, Mayfield knows firsthand why NYC needs to ‘sink the boat.’ “I think the crime should fit the punishment. Being forced on the barge is a cruel and unusual one,” said Mayfield. He and the other panelists discussed similar criminal justice issues, such as the importance of cash bail reform and ways to reduce the inmate population.
Also discussed that evening was whether or not the 320 Concord Avenue site was the appropriate location for the new prison facility. The executive director of Bronx Connect, Reverend Wendy Calderon supports the concept of the Mott Haven jail and the borough-based jail facilities, she said. She also called for the approach to incarceration to be focused more towards mental health treatment and reform rather than locking up inmates, saying that Rikers Island is “the largest mental health institution in the city.”