The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is committed to building a world without incarceration. As prison abolitionists, we know that all jails and prisons are sites of violence that only serve to perpetuate white supremacy, social control and cycles of intergenerational trauma. In our ongoing work to dismantle those systems, we oppose any efforts that invest in or expand jails or prisons of any kind.
In the next month, the New York City Council will vote on a plan to build four new “borough-based” jails, intended to replace Rikers Island. They will vote despite the fact that there is currently no legal mandate that guarantees the Island’s closure. The $10 billion plan calls for the construction of 4,000 new cages over the next seven years. Building jails, even in the name of reducing harm, extends the scope and lifetime of a thoroughly racist system that will continue to brutalize the city’s most marginalized communities. We recognize this plan as a commitment to warehousing thousands of our neighbors for many decades to come–a future we adamantly reject.
The NLG stands in support of the NoNewJails campaign. We share their demands that Rikers Island close immediately without the construction of new jails, and that the billions of dollars budgeted for new jails be re-invested into communities.
Rather than choosing to fuel the prison industrial complex, we can and must shutter Rikers by ending pretrial detention, eliminating arrests for parole violations, decriminalizing minor offenses, and radically transforming sentencing law. We can move towards a world without cages only by diminishing the city’s power to lock people up, not reinforcing it.
We urge all City Council members to vote “No” on the proposal for a borough-based jail system in NYC. It’s time to expand our political horizon beyond a mindset of punishment and dehumanization, beyond the myth of a “humane” jail, and towards transformative systems of community power that can truly keep us safe.
Image: Facebook / NoNewJails NYC