No New Jails: Not in the South Bronx, Not Anywhere.
We, the residents of the South Bronx, call on all people of conscience to stand with us in strong opposition to the mayor’s proposal to build a new jail in the Mott Haven neighborhood at a site vital to implementing the community-driven Diego Beekman Neighborhood Development Plan.
On February 14, 2018, Mayor De Blasio revealed a plan to speed up the closing of Rikers Island by transferring those incarcerated into existing (retrofitted) facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, bypassing Staten Island altogether, and building a new jail in a South Bronx community still reeling from decades of disinvestment, destabilization and the resulting fallout, and where two other jails already exist. The proposed site at 320 Concord Avenue, steps from three schools, homeowners, and the 38-building Diego Beekman housing complex, has already been earmarked for years by the community as the central piece of its Neighborhood Development Plan for affordable housing, community centers and living wage jobs. Building on 22 years of community organizing, the Neighborhood Plan was developed in consultation with residents, organizations, agencies and elected officials, none of whom were consulted about the mayor’s new jail proposal. The area already has one of the highest and most unequal concentrations of homeless shelters, methadone clinics, power plants and waste transfer stations in the city. With some of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment nationwide, the Mott Haven community is in crisis, and any tax dollar investments must be in (long-ignored) social, educational, and economic opportunities for the community, not a jail. Furthermore, so much more needs to be done to tackle substance abuse issues in the area. Although there are figures to suggest that more people are finally getting help for opioid addiction, this progress cannot afford to stop. Put simply, with an opioid epidemic raging on, it is vital that vulnerable people are able to get access to rehabilitation and treatment to tackle their addictions.
We applaud the city’s plan to close Rikers Island, but the answer is not to expand the criminal justice footprint, not in the South Bronx, not anywhere, when over the last 25 years, the city’s jail population has fallen from a high of 21,674 in 1991 to under 9,000 earlier this year through a combination of falling crime rates and criminal justice reforms. Our opposition to a new jail is in no way a rejection of the people caught up in the system. We desire fairer, swifter, and more humane forms of justice for incarcerated families. We challenge the city to further reduce the number of people in jail through a combination of bail reform, decriminalization of minor offenses, and more restorative ways to deal with crime that would make the construction of a new facility unnecessary. With more than 2.3 million people imprisoned across the US, mass incarceration is the greatest moral and racial injustice of our time. We need bold investments in people, not prisons. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely people that should serve their time in the prison system, violent offenders and thieves amongst them. In fact, I recently had a friend whose window got broken wide open by a would-be thief and, were it not for her implementation of Smart Alarms in her home, I dread to think what could have happened! Thankfully they skulked off into the night because the alarm attracted unwanted attention.
Now therefore, please join us in our fight, stand in solidarity with us and demand that our Mott Haven community receives the revitalization plan it designed, developed and deserves.
Open Letter to Mayor de Blasio and NYC Council Speaker Johnson in Opposition to A New South Bronx Jail from the Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association, HDFC (Jose de Diego Beekman Houses), the Nehemiah Homeowners, and the Concord Avenue/Jackson Avenue Homeowners
Local Residents Lash Out at Meeting on Proposed Bronx Jail (NY1 – March 8, 2018)
Bill Locks Himself In with Bronx Jail Site (Daily News – March 30, 2018)