When Ron started working at Horizon Detention Center in early October, he expected the Bronx facility to be full of “ra-ra, rowdy” teens. To his surprise, the residents were calm, even respectful, and the bright, clean halls reminded him of a dormitory.
As the first step in New York’s raise the age law, all 16- and 17-year-olds were moved off New York City’s notorious Rikers Island and into more appropriate juvenile facilities by the Monday deadline, according to an announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Herbert Murray, more than 6 feet tall and beanpole thin, held his clipboard and began to walk along the line of people outside City Hall Park in lower Manhattan who were waiting to join the one-year anniversary rally for the #CLOSErikers Campaign.
A damning report out of Albany and a surprise announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio have renewed hopes among activists and advocates that the long-sought goal of shutting down Rikers Island could come sooner than expected.
“You never know how sacred your freedom is until it’s jeopardized.”
That’s the driving sentiment behind “Crown Heights,” a new film that tells a tale of friendship and perseverance in the face of a miscarriage of justice.
Every day an estimated 1,500 family members and friends of those incarcerated on New York’s Rikers Island visit their loved ones. For several months, photographer Salvador Espinoza rode the bus back and forth, documenting the stories of these people.
“It’s something we can’t sustain because it’s just this revolving door — you’re breeding kids from a young age to go into the system. I just want people to be more aware of this.”
Sometimes it seems there is an inherent conflict of interest between those who work in the field of juvenile justice and their goal of reducing youth involvement with the system. Providing a quality program that reduces recidivism, lessens the length of detention, or lowers the overall number of incarcerated youths can, in the long run, lead to the closing of facilities, shrinking allocations, and fewer jobs. Success can lead to obsolescence. There seems to be a built-in reverse incentive structure, where success never goes unpunished. This is not to say there aren’t a lot of good people doing this work, people who are dedicated to working toward something positive, and a lot of innovative strategies have been developed that seem to be working.