New report: 70% of Rosie's population can be released.
Any contact with the justice system can cause harm, but for those incarcerated on Rikers Island the harms are exponential. At the Center for Court Innovation, we advocate for humane, fair, and effective alternatives to incarceration, which produce better outcomes for everyone.
This is not only humane but necessary to meet the city’s commitment to close Rikers Island by 2027, a goal whose urgency was underscored by the death of Elijah Muhammad on Sunday—the 10th person to die after being held by the city this year. Last year, 16 people died while or after being in Department of Correction custody.
Researched and written by the Center for Court Innovation, the Women’s Community Justice Association, the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, and the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College, the new report describes how the women and gender-expansive individuals being held in the women’s facility at Rikers, Rose M. Singer Center (“Rosie’s”) are uniquely vulnerable.
- Many have experienced domestic violence and face an elevated risk of sexual abuse and retraumatization in jail.
- Over 80 percent are being treated for mental illness, with 27 percent having been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.
- Over half are Black and a majority are from Harlem, the Bronx, East New York/Brownsville.
- 70 percent are caregivers. Data shows us that incarceration has profoundly negative consequences for their children and families.
- Almost 90 percent are being held before trial because they can’t afford bail.
The city has already proved that reducing the number of women and gender-expansive people on Rikers is doable. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city safely reduced the number of people in Rosie’s from 300 to 149. While this number has since risen to 300, experience and our research shows we can safely and sustainably release 70 percent of this population.
Most women and gender-expansive people held at Rikers can be more effectively and safely served by alternative to incarceration programs—and for far less money than the city spends keeping them in custody.