Dear Members of The New York City Council:
As New York City faith leaders, we urge you to vote to close the jails on Rikers Island because their continued existence is a human rights crisis. Furthermore, as New York City faith leaders we feel there is a moral imperative to provide humane care for those who are held in any form of detention, a standard that jails on Rikers could never meet, and which existing borough jails—in their current design—do not yet meet.
We urge City Council to support the closure of Rikers, with the modifications outlined below:
1) Increased investments in mental health resources outside of the judicial system.
2) Increased investments in alternative-to-incarceration programs.
3) Cultural transformation and accountability within the Department of Corrections.
The first two can significantly reduce the total jail capacity for which the city is planning, to an estimated 3,000 beds, down from the city’s current 4,000 projection.
As New York City faith leaders, we welcome and listen to those who have personally experienced the horrors of Rikers Island, and their voices are paramount in the #CLOSErikers campaign. We urge the city to not only design borough-based jails that can put the incarcerated closer to their communities, families and much needed social, legal and spiritual services, but to take immediate and sustained action to ensure that these facilities will be operated differently.
People should not be locked in solitary nor treated like animals. We must hold to the standard of a criminal justice system based on redemption and love, believing that all people can change and should have basic human dignity. We must be committed to address our society’s systematic shortcomings that lead to crime and antisocial behavior. We must work towards a just and safe society for all.
Closing Rikers and shrinking the criminal legal system and jail capacity, will save the city at least $1.6 billion annually. These funds must be used for much needed social and community programs, directed to the communities that have been most harmed by Rikers Island and neglected by their government.
As people of faith our sacred text made it clear that caring for those in detention is essential to our worship:
But this is a people plundered and despoiled; All of them are trapped in caves, or are hidden away in prisons; They have become a prey with none to deliver them, and a spoil, with none to say, “Give them back!” Who among you will give ear to this? Who will give heed and listen hereafter? -Isaiah 42:22-23
I was in prison and you came to visit me. -Matthew 25:36
But the righteous… give sustenance to the destitute, the orphan, and the captive, saying: ‘We feed you for God’s sake only; we seek of you neither recompense nor thanks: for we fear from our Lord a day of anguish and of woe. -Quran 76:5, 8-10
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all. -Hindu Sanskrit Prayer
We pray for the day when our communities are so healed that incarceration will end entirely. And right now, we have a historic opportunity to close a penal colony that symbolizes torture, trauma, and banishment; to improve conditions for anyone still detained. We will also be able to free thousands of the incarcerated and prevent incarceration for thousands more. We as New York City faith leaders again urge the City Council to make the moral and just decision to Close Rikers.
In Faith & Justice,
Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera, Latino Pastoral Action Center
Rev. Wendy Calderón Payne, Urban Youth Alliance/BronxConnect
Chaplain Rev. Donna Hylton, A Little Piece of Light
Minister, Dr. Victoria A. Phillips, Visionary V
Apostle Dr. James I. Clark, Jr. Chief Apostle Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of The Apostolic Faith, Inc.
The Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, Trinity Church Wall Street
Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director, The Interfaith Center of New York
Dean The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe, Rector Saint Bart’s Episcopal Church
Rev. Dionne P. Boissière, MDiv., Chaplain of the Church Center for the United Nations
The Rev. Joel Gibson, The Micah Table
The Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, The Micah Table
Rev. Dr. Michael Carrion, Evangelical Covenant Church
Rev. Dr. Patricia Sealy, Mott Haven Reformed Church.
Rev. Dr. Hector (Benny) Custodio, Immanuel & First Spanish Church
Rev. Sharon White-Harrigan LMSW, Beyond Rosies 2020 Movement
Minister Susana Rivera León, Latino Pastoral Action Center
Chaplain Tara Brown Arnell, BronxConnect
Minister Onleilove Alston, BronxConnect/Bethel The House of YHWH
Pastor Jonathan Mickens, Bethel The House of YHWH
The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe, D.D. Rector, St. Bartholomew’s Church
Pastor Jose Humphreys, Metro Hope Covenant Church in Harlem
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Presbytery of New York City
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, Deputy Director T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
The Rev. Dr. Clyde Kuemmerle, Executive Director, Ecclesia Ministries of New York
Julio Medina, M.Div. Executive Director Exodus Transitional Community
Rev. Dr. Gwendolyn Hadley-Hall Micah Clergy Roundtable Christ Temple United Baptist Church
Minister Susana Rivera León, Latino Pastoral Action Center
Rev. Dr. Kathlyn Barrett-Layne, Staten Island Council of Churches
Rev. Terri Troia, Project Hospitality
Rev. Charles Galbreath, Clarendon Road Church
Rev. Patricia Malcolm, C.U.S.H. (Clergy United to Save and Heal) Pastor Fitzroy Jackson, Seventh Day Adventist Church
Rev. Clive Neal, Bedford Central Presbyterian Church
Pastor Abraham Jules, Community Worship Center SDA Church
Rev. Dr. Kirkpatrick Cohall, Lenox Road Baptist Church
Pastor Gilford Monrose, Mt. Zion Church of God (7th Day)
Pastor Wil Seaton, 73rd Precinct Clergy Council
Rev. Adolphus Lacey, Bethany Baptist Church
Archbishop Russell James, Arrow of Yahweh Ministries
Rev. Timothy English, Bronx Christian Fellowship
Rev. Dr. Calvin Rice, New Jerusalem Worship Center
Rev. Bruce Williams, Bates Memorial Baptist
Rev. Gregory McCants, Manna of Life Ministries
Rev. Dr. Demetrius Carolina, First Central Baptist Church in Staten Island
Imam Konate, Council of African Imams
Gurdev Singh Kang, The Sikh Cultural Society
Shri Dr. Dhanpaul Narine, President Shri Trimurti Bhavan Inc.
Srimattie Harini Bangera, Board Member Hindu Temple Society of North America
Vijay Bisram, Executive Member America Sevashram Sangha
Pastor James Richmond, Seventh Day Adventist Church
Ramesh Deochand, Public Relations Officer Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation
Rev. Calvin Chandler, Mt. Sinai Baptist Church
Bishop Fernando Rodriguez, President at LACA State of New York
Bishop Eric Garnes, Tabernacle of Praise Cathedral
Bishop Mervin Harding, Grace Deliverance Tabernacle Church of God, Inc.
Bishop Carlton Brown, Bethel Gospel Assembly
Bishop Sylveta Hamilton-Gonzales, Chief Executive Officer and Bishop of QKingdom Ministries, Inc.
Bishop Steve Belgrove, His Majesty Ministries
Bishop Earl McKay, The Bronx Church-Church of God of Prophecy
The Rev. Orlando Findlayter, New Hope Christian Fellowship
Rev. Fred Davie, Executive-Vice President Union Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Nigel Pearce, Grace Congregational Church
Sunita Viswanath, Co-Founder & Board Member, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus
Rev. Dr. Hector B. Custodio, Immanuel-First Spanish UMC
Rev. Karyn Carlo PhD American Baptist Churches
The Reverend Cynthia Stravers, Associate Rector Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest
Rev. María Isabel Santiviago, Associate Priest Holyrood/Santa Cruz Church
The Rev. Elizabeth G. Maxwell, Rector, Church of the Ascension
Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, SAJ-Judaism that Stands for All
Rev. Posey Krakowsky, Church of the Ascension, NYC
Gregory Mendoza, Friendship Baptist Church
The Rev. Dr. Mary Foulke, Rector St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem
Fr Hugh L. Burns, OP Administrator St Teresa/St Anthony Church
Rev. Darlene Brown, 2nd Prince of Peace Baptist Church
Philip J. Malebranche, Deacon, First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica
Dr. Ruth Shaffer, Ph.D., M. Div. Safe Haven UCC
Chaplain Kim Eliano, Second Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Nigel Pearce, Grace Church of Harlem
Gurdev Singh Kang, Sikh Leader & Commissioner for New York City Commission of Human Rights
Bro. Anthony Zuba, OFM Cap., Pastoral Associate Church of the Good Shepherd
Father James Shehean, Jr., Catholic Archdiocese of NY/Higher Education
Rev. Dr. Deborah D Jenkins, Faith @ Work Christian Church
Rev Yolanda D Brown, IMANI’S QUEST MINISTRIES
Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Aida L Montero, The Riverside Church
Pastor James Richmond, SDA Church Organization
Zac Martin, Pastor of Outreach at Recovery House of Worship Brooklyn and Executive Director of Trellis
Rev. Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft, Executive Minister for Justice, Operations & Movement Building Middle Collegiate Church
Leonard Nalencz, Assistant Professor College of Mount Saint Vincent
Rev. JoAnn Barrett, Co-Chair Suffolk County Inter-faith Anti-Bias Taskforce
Ray Rogers, Director Corporate Campaign, Inc.
Rev. Dr. McKenzie Pier, Founder, Movement.org
Rev. Rose Richards, Our Savior of Chinatown
Rabbi Bob Kaplan
Rev. Adriene Thorne, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn