An Open Letter to 2021 Mayoral Candidates on Criminal Justice/Reentry Reform (download pdf):
Friday, June 18, 2021
We are a group of reentry, legal, and criminal justice policy organizations that directly assist New Yorkers with conviction histories. Together, we hosted a Mayoral Forum on March 30th focused on issues stemming from the continued criminalization of people of color and the cycle of incarceration. We are calling on our next mayor to address these very important issues.
Despite reforms of recent years, far too many Black and brown justice-involved people still face barriers that deepen inequality and reinforce patterns of overincarceration, including obstacles to safe and permanent housing (critical for reunifying with children); discriminatory hiring practices; lack of access to mental and physical health care; and restrictive parole policies. There are 750,000 New York City residents who have a conviction; almost 80% of people with conviction records are Black or Latinx. The inequity and perpetual punishment experienced by those with convictions have been exacerbated by the pandemic and continue to have deep and lasting consequences on families, communities, and our city as a whole.
We must not continue to be a city that disproportionately punishes and jails New Yorkers–in particular New Yorkers of color–without a more unified plan to address the many underlying issues these city residents face. We call on the mayoral candidates to address these issues with strong, concrete policies that invest in communities and non-carceral solutions, emphasize restorative justice, rehabilitation and a coordinated and robust reentry support plan that will set up justice-involved individuals to succeed rather than fail, and ensure the accountability of City agencies lead to a more equitable and safe New York City.
It is critically important that our next Mayor:
- Commit to additional investment in educational resources and job programs for justice- involved people, and crisis-management interventions and trauma treatment in communities where Black and brown people who have encountered the effects of over- policing in our City reside.
- Ensure that non-profit alternatives to incarceration and reentry service providers are adequately resourced to support each client’s unique needs, in coordination with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) and the various city agencies focused on criminal justice and human services;
- Center and elevate the voices and issues of children and teens of incarcerated parents, guaranteeing that they have access to their parents and essential supportive services;
- Ensure the safety of those released from Rikers Island and other city jails by providing valid identification (such as IDNYCs), COVID testing, access to COVID vaccines, and enrollment in health care insurance prior to their discharge;
- Commit to improving the conditions of confinement and services for detained and incarcerated New Yorkers (including women, people who identify as trans or gender non-confirming, emerging adults, older people, and parents), and identifying those needs through consultation with directly impacted experts;
- Prevent people with serious mental health challenges from being incarcerated, and cease the practice of criminalizing individuals with mental health issues;
- Commit to moving women off Rikers Island sooner than the proposed 2027 goal, by divesting from expensive incarceration practices and investing in diversion programs for women charged with felonies, rather than in pretrial detention;
- Remove all barriers to housing for people with conviction records, and expand access to affordable and supportive housing within the city, including public housing;
- Address the school to prison pipeline by reducing school safety agents in NYC public schools and increase the number of social workers and service providers within NYC public schools;
- Support older New Yorkers (aged 50 and above) returning from incarceration by providing additional resources to the CARE Task Force, co-chaired by MOCJ and DFTA, and ensure that the Task Force guarantees access to senior services, including housing, medical and mental health services, accurate identification, and assistance with navigating technology.
Our City’s approach to individuals who have been incarcerated and justice-involved impacts all New Yorkers. It will shape our City’s future as we rebuild together. We ask mayoral candidates to commit now to lifting the barriers that currently set justice-involved people up to fail. Ensuring that all New Yorkers can access the key resources needed to survive and thrive will improve our communities, strengthen neighborhoods and families, and make our City a better place to live.
Dr. Jocelynne Rainey, CEO and President, Getting Out and Staying Out
JoAnne Page, President and CEO, The Fortune Society
Reverend Sharon Wright-Harrigan, Executive Director, Women’s Community Justice Association
Michael Pope, Executive Director, Youth Represent
Julio Medina, CEO and Founder, Exodus Transitional Community
Faith Communities for Just Reentry
Elizabeth Gaynes, President and CEO, Osborne Association
Fair Chance for Housing Coalition
Ann Jacobs, Executive Director, John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity
Min, Dr. Victoria A. Phillips, Community Health and Justice Organizer, Mental Health Project, Urban Justice Center