You've got to get the word out that people are being treated less than human. —Barry Campbell
Led by executive editor Bill Moyers, 'Rikers: An American Jail' aired on PBS in 2017, winning the Robert F. Kennedy Media Advocacy Award and quickly inserting itself into the debate over the future of the notorious New York City jail facility. Consisting entirely of first-hand accounts of incarceration on Rikers Island, the film presents a stark and disturbing portrait.
In June 2018, as part of its "Spaces of Justice" series, Open House New York held a public screening and discussion of the film. The evening was moderated by New Thinking host, Matt Watkins. The conversation was about the film, the urgency of criminal justice reform, and New York City’s pledge to replace the facilities on Rikers with a series of smaller, community-based jails, a reform advocated by the Independent Commission on Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, whose work we helped to coordinate.
On the panel were Tina Luongo, the attorney-in-charge of criminal defense practice at the Legal Aid Society; Jill Harris, policy and strategy counsel with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office; and two people who both experienced incarceration on Rikers and whose accounts are featured in the film: Barry Campbell, special assistant at the Fortune Society; and Johnny Perez, director of the U.S. Prisons Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Along with a focus on the hardships the violence and isolation of Rikers imposes on the people detained there, as well as on their families and the correction officers who guard them, one overarching question framed the discussion. While many promising changes have long been underway in New York City—even with its largest jail still years away from its promised closure—could replacing Rikers Island be the catalyst for a more root-and-branch reform of the system, and the opportunity to meaningfully address the harms caused by decades of an over-reliance on incarceration, especially to communities of color?
The following is a transcript of the podcast:
MATTHEW WATKINS: Welcome to New Thinking, I’m Matt Watkins. Recently I was asked to moderate a discussion of the Bill Moyers-led documentary, Rikers: An American Jail and we are presenting highlights from that event on this podcast. The evening was hosted by Open House New York—part of its 'Spaces of Justice' series. The discussion was about the film, the future of criminal justice reform, and New York City’s plan to replace Rikers with a series of smaller, so-called community-based jails.
On the panel were Tina Luongo, the attorney-in-charge of criminal defense practice at the Legal Aid Society; Jill Harris, policy and strategy counsel with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, and two people who have both experienced incarceration at Rikers and elsewhere and are featured in the film: Barry Campbell, who is now special assistant to the president at the Fortune Society advocating for the currently and formerly incarcerated; and Johnny Perez, director of the U.S. Prisons Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
The film consists pretty much entirely of first-hand accounts of incarceration at Rikers, so some of what you’ll hear on this podcast is not appropriate for younger listeners and there is some adult language throughout. The evening included watching clips from the film—which you’ll hear as well—and then stopping for discussion. But I started the night by asking everyone on the panel a big picture question: What do they think is at stake in the debate over Rikers? And while there are lots of promising reforms taking place right now in New York City—and that's while Rikers remains open—could replacing Rikers act as the catalyst both for addressing the previous harms caused by the criminal justice system and for instituting the kind of root-and-branch reforms that so many people are advocating for right now? Tina Luongo from the Legal Aid Society speaks first, and then you'll hear me introduce each panelist in turn.
TINA LUONGO: I think the answer to that hinges on how far we're willing to go to recognize how bad it is at Rikers, but more importantly, how important it is to really look at decarcerating New York City and America. Because the conversation centers around reducing a population of people down from 8,000 people right now to 5,000. But the real question is, why? Why would we stop there? And aren't we really looking at a movement that goes far deeper?
WATKINS: Johnny, what do you think?
JOHNNY PEREZ: It's sort of similar to knocking down a Confederate monument and what that means. You knock one down, then suddenly there's a possibility to knock all the other ones down because of what they stand for, the symbolism behind them.
Closing Rikers Island of course is not going to stop mass incarceration overnight no more than a monument is going to stop racism overnight. It opens the imagination for us to think about what's possible and really try to imagine a society that is more humane, a society that is more just and rooted on accountability versus punishment.
WATKINS: Thank you, Barry?
CAMPBELL: For me I think it's important that people understand that people of color have always known what's been going on in Rikers Island since day one. It's just now become a public issue.
For me, you have to understand that Rikers Island is a systemic problem, but it's only the tip of the iceberg when you think about the criminal justice issue. And it's not just people of color that are suffering. LGBTQ communities are suffering, mental health issue individuals are suffering behind the walls of Rikers Island.
I'm glad that the public is aware now what's going on, but please don't be misled. This is not something that just started. This has been going on for decades now and I think it's about time that the public and the government do something about it.
JILL HARRIS: I think that's right. I think Rikers is the tip of the iceberg and I think it also is really symbolic of the things that were just being described. I think there's a consensus now, sort of a left-right consensus, that we've incarcerated too many people, that we need to pull back from the over-incarceration that has been happening for the last few years, and I think the policies have begun to change in district attorney's offices around the country, certainly in the district attorney's office where I work.
Tina makes a good point about why stop at 5,000. Why not reimagine the whole system and our use of incarceration? Really trying to grapple with the question: why do we use it? What are the purposes? What are the public safety functions that it serves?
But I think it's symbolic really more than anything rather than a catalyst or something ahead of the reforms. The reforms have been happening for a while and they're going to continue to happen independently of whatever happens with Rikers.
WATKINS: All right, there's obviously a lot to follow up on there. We also have to get to this remarkable film. Hopefully we're going to pick up on a lot of those issues as we go along and we discuss the film. The first clip we're going to see is the very opening of the film. It's called Entering. This opens with the experience of entering Rikers, of taking that long bridge, the only bridge that goes across to what really is this stunningly isolated place.
FILM CLIP: Before you hit the bridge that says Welcome to Rikers Island and then you got on the bridge and it's just like ... It was the daytime, but it felt dark.
FILM CLIP: When they started to drive across the bridge, I realized how long it was and I could see Rikers Island as we came over the hill.
FILM CLIP: I was going across the bridge and I just ... I was looking at it and I'm just like the whole time shaking my head in disbelief.
FILM CLIP: On that bus is so much stuff going through my mind, but the main thing is hoping that I do make it out.
FILM CLIP: It looked grim. It looked like a monster, like we were about to go into the belly of a beast.
FILM CLIP: New York City is to me the greatest city on earth, but when you look across that bay onto Rikers Island, that's not living, that's just existing.
FILM CLIP: I felt like I wasn’t shit. I felt like, "I'm here and nobody cares."
FILM CLIP: They got us inside the door, closed the gate behind us, unshackled, took the cuffs off, sent us in a room. They came in, strip-searched up, which was just crazy to me because this is my first time ever getting strip-searched in a room full of men. I couldn't believe this shit was happening.
FILM CLIP: I went to Rikers Island with a friend of mine. He had already been back and forth to Rikers Island and this was my first experience. When I got into the day room of the house where we was at, my friend was with me luckily. We were sitting there talking and all of a sudden I seen him stand up and walk to the corner of the day room. I couldn't understand what was happening and when I turned around, there were two guys coming to take my sneakers. I assumed that my friend and I were going to fight together but it was just me fighting at the time. They wound up getting one of my sneakers and I had a black eye, a busted lip and everything. After it was over I went to him and I said, "What happened?" Later on that night he brought me back my other sneaker and he said to me, he said, "I had to know that you could stand up for yourself before I stand up for you." That was my induction into the way things ran on Rikers Island.
WATKINS: That was of course Barry finishing that excerpt we just saw about "the way things run on Rikers Island." Barry, a question for you, actually. It seems like there's this—and the clip really portrays it—that there's a systematic attempt to dehumanize people on their way into this environment. I imagine that's pretty common to carceral environments, but do you think there's something particularly intense about this dehumanizing of people on their way into Rikers Island?
CAMPBELL: I think it's intentional. Everything in there from the strip searches to the food to the time when you can go out to the yard, to even when you go to the store—you ask permission for everything. That's dehumanizing to an individual who's been living free almost all of his life.
For a first time offender to go inside Rikers Island ... I always tell people, we live in this great big world, but this world has two universes in it. One of them is the incarcerated world and one is the free world. Once you go into the incarcerated world, the rules that apply in the free world don't apply there and the rules that apply in the incarcerated world don't work out here.
For many, many years, I was trapped between the two worlds because I couldn't understand how they operated. I'm a systems baby: foster home, boys home, jail, and prison. So when I went to Rikers Island, I was going home. I was going home to the chaos that I had known from the age of 7-years-old. When you think about that, that's all I've known, I was happy.
WATKINS: Jill, you have told me that now the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office has incoming prosecutors, one of the things you do as a form of initiation, is have them visit Rikers Island so that they can see the conditions there and see what it means when they request sentences that are going to involve Rikers or when people aren't able to pay their bail and they end up on Rikers.
I'm wondering to what extent we now think of incarceration increasingly as the least desirable outcome of criminal cases. So what is the role of the prosecutor then in that understanding?
HARRIS: Well, one of the things that we're doing in the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office as part of an initiative that we have called Justice 2020 is a community justice initiative where we are going to be having very robust conversations with people in communities. Not just the usual suspects who are on the Precinct Council or the head of the Tenants' Association or whatever. Trying to get really deep into the communities and the residents and ask them what justice looks like to them, what safety looks like to them. What would they like to see in their criminal justice system?
Because I think that for too long, district attorneys have, I think for mostly good reason, assumed that they're representing victims, they're representing the community, they want to keep people safe. They feel that obligation very strongly. But their judgment isn't necessarily the best and they're not always appropriately representing what the community actually wants because the community doesn't want mass incarceration.
These are people's family members and loved ones. And so I think having those conversations will bring the communities in and actually asking them, what do you think the prosecutor's role should be will inform our practice going forward.
WATKINS: Tina, as a long time public defender in this city, could you talk a little bit about the additional challenges that Rikers presents to lawyers trying to represent their clients, to families trying to visit their loved ones. I mean, the isolation of Rikers and also whether you think these proposed community-based jails, this network of ... I think the Lippman Commission asked for five but it's now going to be four without Staten Island, but whether you think these community-based jails are going to be something of a remedy for that.
LUONGO: That bridge is, I don't know, a mile-and-a-half long. I've come over that bridge many, many times but I go home. Family members though in order to get even to that bridge are traveling sometimes an hour-and-a-half to get to a place where you then take a public bus over that bridge, to which you are searched. If you bring your children to see their parent, guardian, or loved one, they're sniffed by dogs. If you are someone who's visiting and you happen to be breastfeeding your baby to bring them to see their parent, you're not allowed to do that. You have to leave and end your visit.
Now I'm going to tell you about a story of a man who exercised his right to go to trial. It was a two week trial—a significant case. Every day he was woken up at 3 AM to get onto a bus, to which he had to be strip-searched before getting on the bus. At about 4 or 5 AM in reception to get to a bus to get to court because his trial was going to start at 9:30 where his jury would be waiting.
That person has to now sit at defense counsel table all day long. Not fall asleep, only eat perhaps a cheese sandwich and a milk on the lunch break. But during that lunch break, I have to meet with him or her to explain. In this situation it was a gentleman. Then afternoon, then wait till there's a late bus, get back on, he's strip-searched again, get back to a housing unit at maybe 10 o'clock, repeat the next day. Monday through Friday, two week trial.
By the time he had to testify in his own defense, he was completely exhausted. That is the reality of when you isolate people. Family members can't visit, it takes too long, trials don't happen. So, yes, community-based, smaller facilities closer to where your life is, where your family and lawyer is, is important.
WATKINS: And where the courthouse is.
LUONGO: But again, how small, and what's the experience of those people who have to be right now held there? And by the way, the experience of the family members and their children who should be visiting, who frankly should be home visiting.
WATKINS: There's again so much to follow up on but we should keep moving to the next clip. That is a clip titled Violence, and that is perhaps the defining feature of life—or existing—at Rikers, as the film makes very clear.
FILM CLIP: Immediately within like 15, 20 minutes of being inside the holding cell for that building, a red light starts spinning. Guys that already been here are like, "That's a red dot." Red dot meaning either something popped off—meaning somebody got cut, somebody got stabbed, somebody got hurt, somebody committed suicide, or a guard got hurt. Seen a kid come out bloody, ambulance, in the stretcher. Immediately I started to think ... I'm not thinking about where I'm going anymore, getting any sleep. I'm thinking about, "How am I going to get my first weapon?"
FILM CLIP: It's gladiator school for real. If you get there and you don't have a weapon to defend yourself, you have an issue.
FILM CLIP: Violence rules: predator or prey. That shit never changes.
FILM CLIP: I'm in a situation where I can't run from. But my whole time in the streets that's all I ever been doing, is fighting. So, I'm looking like I'm in a place where I always trained for, but just didn't know it.
FILM CLIP: They taught me how to use a level of violence that I could never imagine I was capable of doing.
FILM CLIP: There's a saying that it doesn't matter if you have a uniform on that says correctional officer or one that says inmate, you're still doing time.
FILM CLIP: I heard somebody died. He was Dominican, he didn't speak English, and the officer told him to do something, gave him an order, but he just stood there and didn't move. But I don't think it was because he was trying to be rebellious, just that I don't think he understood what was said. They went in the cell and they was beating him with the sticks. It was like three of them. The sticks would miss him, hit the wall, and it would reverberate through my cell. And you hear, I heard his cries. It was crazy because people just came out of their cells and went on with their day. People were like, "Yo, who got Kool-Aid?" "Somebody got cigarettes?" Nobody missed a step. It was just business as usual after that.
WATKINS: A difficult clip to watch. It's clear, and it's been confirmed again and again, that there is a profound culture of violence at Rikers Island. Johnny, you're someone who's been incarcerated on Rikers and you now advocate on behalf of the incarcerated. Do you believe that we can build these new, smaller, modern, natural-light, consistent-services-for-people jails? These new community-based jails, can we build those and not take the culture of violence with them?
PEREZ: That's a good question. Part of the argument is if you're just moving the pieces around, aren't you just moving also the problem around? I would argue that the response is no because in addition to doing time on Rikers, I also did 13 years upstate in nine different prisons. What I can tell you from that experience is that I've met correctional officers who are one way in one prison and are completely different in a whole other prison. A lot of that speaks to the architecture of the prison.
The culture in Rikers Island is embedded within the walls. You know what's going to happen there before you even get there because you've heard about what happens there.
And as a result, you kind of get into this mode where you are likely to respond in the same way that the environment compels you to respond.
A community-based jail gives us the opportunity to start all over again, to clean the palate, and allows us the opportunity to reimagine exactly what a community-based jail would look like. Also, it's important to keep in mind which sometimes you look at this and you forget that a large portion of the people on Rikers Island are not convicted of any crime. The reason that's important is we value the idea of living in a country that holds people innocent until proven guilty, but the reality of it is that we criminalize people long before we found them officially guilty in a court of law for anything. Part of that is placing you in a place like Rikers Island where every second is a second-by-second attack on your soul.
And I'll say this last piece: the reason a lot of the things happen on Rikers Island, a lot of the abuse is happening on Rikers Island, is because we just don't know what's going on. Every now and then a story makes it out and we're shocked by it but to Barry's point earlier, what goes on behind those walls has been happening for years and sometimes ... Let me put it in another way: you can't reform a concentration camp. There's no fixing that. You have to close it altogether. I think that's probably the shortest way I can put that.
CAMPBELL: I just want to say one thing, which to me is real important: Opening up these community-based jails is one thing, but the systemic culture of Rikers Island is not only in the bricks, it's in the individuals that are running it.
The correctional officers, the civilian workers, even the medical staff to a certain degree. And I'm not talking about all correctional officers, I'm not making an indictment on all of them. But the systemic violence is ingrained within the personnel that are on Rikers Island just as much as it's in the bricks.
So I say to all of you: if you open these community-based jails and you got the same people running it, baby girl you got the same damn problem. I can't put it no other way.
WATKINS: On that happy note, let's move to our next clip, which is I'm afraid on another pretty grim subject: really one of the most disturbing features of incarceration and one of the defining features of Rikers Island, which is solitary confinement. Let's roll that please.
FILM CLIP: I was sentenced to 1,580 days in solitary confinement, almost four years.
FILM CLIP: My longest stretch as an adolescent was 120 days. When you first enter the box, it's a very dark and gloomy place. It kind of replicates a jail cell, it's just a little bit smaller. Floors are gray, walls are a dark, dingy color, it's all gloomy. It's meant and designed to keep you down. You hear people out the window screaming all day. You hear people on your tier screaming all day.
FILM CLIP: I walk into the box and it's noisy, it's like everybody screaming and it just sounds like a madhouse. I went into the cell and the cell closes. That sound that the cell makes when it closes is a crazy sound.
FILM CLIP: It sounds like a dog kennel. Imagine like 20 different breeds of dogs on the same so-called tier in cages and hearing so many different sounds of barking. That what it begins to sound like. It's madness.
CAMPBELL: You sleep until you can't sleep no more, then you're awake until you can't take it anymore and you just wind up ... You either count the cockroaches that come under your door or you start counting the cracks in the wall. Anything to keep your mind occupied.
FILM CLIP: I used to look at paint chips on the wall and they would become figurines. You look long enough and hard enough, they start moving around so now all of a sudden you got your own private movie theater.
FILM CLIP: I really did feel like my mind was breaking down because my body was also breaking down as well because the portions that they feed you in the box is smaller than what they feed you in the general population. You have to make sacrifices when it's chow time like you get two pieces of bread, but you're starving at that moment. You want to eat everything and you know this isn't going to fill you up, but you have to eat a small portion and you have to put the bread off to the side for later. I'm not necessarily going to say I felt I lost my sanity completely, but I know it was being chipped away little by little.
FILM CLIP: I'm thinking about doing something negative. You understand what I'm saying? Not doing something positive because, how could you think about doing something positive when you have nothing positive being locked into a box?
FILM CLIP: You want to hold on to that understanding that this is insane because if you lose it, then you kind of become conformed to it. And once that happens, there is no redemption or rehabilitation as they like to say it.
WATKINS: A question for you first Barry. What kind of offenses land people in solitary confinement? I think your average person would think, "Well, the bar has got to be pretty high for that kind of punishment. The people must be posing a grave threat to themselves or the others."
CAMPBELL: No, no, no. It depends on the correctional officer working your house, it depends on the correctional officer that you come in contact with. Correctional officers are human. Sometimes they wake up on the wrong side of the bed and you happen to run right into them. When you do that, welcome to the box.
PEREZ: I want to add to that. You would think that it's people who are stabbing COs or something like that. Four out of five offenses are there for really minor offenses, non-violent.
The most absurd case that I heard was a 16-year-old who shot a spitball at a correctional officer and got 60 days in solitary for that. Now, 16-year-olds throw spitballs. We get that. Some adults do too, but our reaction to such a minor offense is so punitive, but it's also symbolic to the society that we live in. We have a really criminalized mental illness. 40 percent of the people on Rikers Island are living with some type of mental health concern.
We've criminalized homelessness, we've criminalized poverty, and now we're even criminalizing just being from a whole other country. So we're criminalizing people not because of what they've done but because of who they are and solitary is the best expression of that.
LUONGO: The issue about people with mental health issues that are incarcerated as a result of a mental health issue because they were put in a cage as opposed to a hospital bed is a real one and we have to tackle that.
Do not conflate that, and we should not conflate that, with the issue of solitary confinement, which in many ways the person doesn't have a mental health issue until they are placed there for 1,000 days, or if you're Kalief Browder for three years as a 16-year-old. And until we sued at Legal Aid Society here's what used to happen: You'd owe a solitary bid, you'd get out. If you're rearrested a year from now, they put you in because you owe 60 days on your old solitary. We had to sue to end that incredibly draconian, horrible process.
I want to say, yes it's true that there are people who have mental health issues at Rikers and as a result of them acting out because they need treatment and not prison or cages, they're in solitary. But we own the issue of creating people with mental health issues that come home and kill themselves like that young man. That's the conversation that we need to focus on when we talk about solitary. Issues about needing more treatment, more sustained housing, more programs, more of a public health response to mental health is on us also, but they're two separate issues.
WATKINS: We're going to go to our final clip. It's in some ways a little disorienting to go from talking about solitary confinement to the topic of coming home because that is the topic of this last clip, which is this very important question of reentry. What happens to people when they're let out of prison? What kind of support are we giving them? Really I think it's a larger question of: what are jails for? Are they there simply to isolate people and to punish them or do we see a role for corrections? Do we see a role for rehabilitation? So, a lot of issues. A good way to round up our clips. Let's roll the Coming Home clip, please.
FILM CLIP: You have all the plans in the world, but the main plan is to just stay free out of prison. Being released out here where there's no one at, there's nobody that's going to help you if you need some help because no one knows you. You're so nervous being back out in society after being in jail even if it's just for one night. It's overwhelming.
FILM CLIP: Coming home, it was hard for me to readjust. I didn't like being around people, I didn't want to share anything with anybody, like my thoughts. I didn't want to be around my own family. It was just really, really hard for me to talk to people. I wanted to use violence for everything that was wrong.
FILM CLIP: My brother and sister will have nothing to do with me. My husband's family will have nothing to do with us, my husband and our daughter included. It's very difficult. My husband and I are currently separated.
FILM CLIP: Unless you've experienced coming home from jail or prison, you'll never know what it's like. I've always said it's great, everybody's talking about these 6,000 inmates that are being released. But what are you putting in place for them to come home to?
WATKINS: That very much seems like the question. As Spaces of Justice is part of the title of this event I want to, as we're nearing the end, return a little bit to talking about spaces and about this proposal again of replacing Rikers with community-based jails of a more modern, effective, humane design. Johnny, from a reentry perspective, what do you see as the importance of having jails in the community, not at the end of this mile-and-a-half long bridge that didn't even used to be marked on subway maps? What's the importance of having them in the community, on the street?
PEREZ: When I think about reentry, it's important for everyone to understand reentry should start the minute that you are arrested. We should be preparing for this person to come home. Why? Because 95 percent of the people who are currently incarcerated are going to come home. About 700,000 people a year are actually released into our communities and wear this scarlet letter where we expect them to come back into a society that will not fully accept them.
Being able to have better access to resources in the community, being able to have more access to your family, it strengthens family ties. My daughter's sitting in the audience and not to put you on the spot, but I saw my daughter a total of six times the entire time that I was incarcerated out of those 13 years. Part of that was because the prison was just too far and there was very little access.
So being able to put the jail in a place where the families have more access, where attorneys, mental health providers or any other service providers also have more access to the individual, we increase the likelihood that a person will come back into a society with services in place, continuity of services for those people who have mental health concerns. Being able to have jobs or at the very least, be in a position where they'd be able to connect with employers before they get released.
Any time that a person has a successful reentry we all benefit.
WATKINS: Then a question for Jill. It seems like there's the beginnings of a more holistic conception of the role of the prosecutor that's taking place, aided in part by people such as yourself joining prosecutors' offices. Do you see a role for prosecutors in the issue of reentry? Not just prosecuting crime and sentencing people, but thinking about reentry issues. Is that something that's on the radar screen for the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office?
HARRIS: It is, and I'm of two minds about it. One the one hand yes, we have a reentry program and because we're a DA's office, we have resources. We have computer labs, we have the ability to refer people to services and are starting to build more relationships with the prisons themselves so that we can start reaching out to people when they're in prison so they will have relationships when they come out. Another one of the recommendations from Justice 2020 is we consider getting more involved in parole determinations rather than just reflexively opposing someone getting out on parole. Actually looking at the individual and possibly recommending that they do get out on parole.
The reason I say I'm of two minds though is because I'm not sure that a prosecutor's office is the best place for somebody to get resources and to get integrated into a community. I sort of feel like generally one of the things that would be helpful is to push more services, more alternatives, more reentry resources into communities and away from the criminal justice system. I feel like just being in the criminal justice system is itself kind of criminogenic and causes more crime and less safety. I just feel like if we could reduce the criminal justice footprint, that would probably be good.
WATKINS: Barry, anything to add?
CAMPBELL: I just want to make one point to everybody. Your information that you've gathered here today should be spread to 10 more people. You've got to get the word out that people are being treated less than human. I understand that someone commits a crime and they have to do the time, but let me tell you something: I haven't been to jail in over 15 years or prison and I'm still paying for the shit that I did. I am still paying for it.
When I walk into a place looking for a job and they run my rap sheet, automatically what they see in black and white paper becomes the defining moment for me. They look at me and they say, "Oh, I know you now." You don't know me, you know nothing about me. Today I'm a productive member who pays my taxes. I swipe my metro card to get on the train, I pay for every item that I take out of a store and I'm not hitting nobody over the head today.
That is a public safety issue and you have to look at it as such. It's not about giving somebody an easy card because they committed a crime. Yes I did my time, but why the fuck am I still paying for it?
WATKINS: So that was Barry Campbell of the Fortune Society memorably rounding out the discussion of Rikers: An American Jail that I moderated recently in New York City. Also on the panel were: Johnny Perez, director of the U.S. Prisons Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Jill Harris, policy and strategy counsel with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, and Tina Luongo, the attorney-in-charge of criminal defense practice at the Legal Aid Society.
I have a number of people to thank for this episode. Gregory Wessner and everyone at Open House New York, Public Square Media for allowing me to include clips from this remarkable documentary on the podcast, and in particular, my thanks to Colby Kelly for her help in preparing the panel discussion.
To see the documentary in full, visit rikersfilm.org. From there you can also get information about setting up your own screening and request a free DVD. A final thank you to the technical staff at Manhattan’s SVA theater. They provided me with a recording of the night’s event very much in keeping with the high audio standards we try to set here on New Thinking.
You have been listening to another episode of New Thinking from the Center for Court Innovation. Find out more about our own work “Rethinking Rikers Island” on our website, and please rate and review the podcast on iTunes. I’m Matt Watkins. Thanks for listening.