Jay Z Says Response to Browder Story is to Thank For Plan to Close Rikers Island
It seems like after years of fighting for the closure of New York City’s infamous Rikers Island, The New York Times is reporting a plan may be in place to finally clear the chaos for good. Early on Friday, March 31st, officials met to present an effective plan that’ll back Rikers’ termination, which reportedly received support from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
A 97-page report lists detailed recommendations to move inmates from the complex which holds approximately 10,000 people to “borough-based” facilities over the next 10 years. The city intends to continue to minimize its use of the long-standing complex over the next decade as new jails are placed across New York City, a plan that Mayor Bill de Blasio previously opposed due to its hefty price tag:
“The problem is, it would cost many billions of dollars, and I have to look out for what’s feasible and I have to look out for the taxpayer.”
Recommendations also state that for the plan to work, Rikers’ population needs to dramatically decrease. Handling low-level crimes as civil cases instead of criminal could help reduce lengthy sentences, and shortening the amount of time that a person can be held on bail.
Those involved with the task force hope the plan will compel the city to investigate the corruption and injustice that plagued the jail’s inmates and correctional officers, injustice that was highlighted on the six-part docuseries “The Kalief Browder Story” which recently aired on Spike TV and was executive produced by rapper, Jay Z. The series followed Browder’s struggle to acclimate to life outside of Rikers Island after being held in the facility for several years awaiting a trial for crime he didn’t commit. The 22-year-old spent much of his time in solitary confinement, resulting in post-traumatic stress that caused him to take his own life in 2015.
Since then, Akeem Browder, Kalief’s brother, has worked to promote awareness for the Shut Down Rikers campaign because of how the institution affected his brother’s life:
“We put humans in cages and hide them away from other humans because Rikers Island, if you take the train you can see Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx. You can’t see Rikers Island. The map blotches that out as though it doesn’t exist because it’s out of sight out of mind. You get the human to be dehumanized, and then put them back in society where people who’ve never been to jail sees that guy or girl who you can tell there’s something wrong with them.”
In a rare tweet, Jay Z stated that viewers’ compassion and the awareness spread from Browder’s story is what ultimately made the plan to shut down the prison a priority for the city:
Singer John Legend, who has also been an active participant in the effort to end mass incarceration shared his feelings on Twitter as well:
Legend is right when he says the hard work is just beginning and hopefully other young men and women won’t have to meet the same fate as Browder as people learn more about the inner workings of incarceration and fight so that people are treated with fairness and justice.