My new message to No New Jails. I did a previous commentary about the organization called No New Jails, NYC, which is a grassroots campaign committed to closing Rikers Island. Now, without building new jails and rerouting the $11 billion it would cost to construct four new jails in New York city towards community services and needs.
When I first commented on No New Jails, the only thing I knew about them is how it’s disrupted a New York city event during a presentation by the mayor’s office of criminal justice. I was like, here we go again, another protest move with no real vision or plans for the future. I’m happy to say I was wrong.
I had begun reading No New Jails’ New York’s guide to building community care and safety by closing Rikers with No New Jails. So far, I’m very impressed. The plan: it’s practical and strategic. My only critique regards the bailout initiative, but I will address that in another commentary.
Here, I want to discuss the overall aim of No New Jails’ plan. It’s quite ingenious and powerful. It exposes the infancy and illogic in New York city wanting to spent $11 billion to construct four new—so-called humane jails—to replace Rikers Island. How can any jail or prison be humane? And why not invest $11 billion in disadvantaged communities plagued by crime?
Why not invest $11 billion into proven alternatives to incarceration and into proven crime reducing measures, like creating jobs and improving public education and community services. The answer to these questions is simple. Investing $11 billion to reduce crime and to keep people out of jail means less jobs for police officers, correction guards, prosecutors, judges, and everyone else who benefits from the policing, prosecution and punishment of crime.
No New Jails is on to something, but I call upon them to expand their vision to encompass closing down prisons and jails throughout the state, by building a statewide grassroots movement exposing how incarceration harms, and empowering the community inside and out to reduce crime and recidivism ourselves.
My UFD organization is an example of a community-based grassroots movement combating the harm incarceration does to prisoners, especially young prisoners. Despite the hope UFD gives to prisoners that they can change and better themselves, despite the way UFD positively challenges prisoners to reevaluate their criminal, colonial thinking—that is the product of carceral corruption—the New York state department of corrections and community supervision is fighting to stop UFD.
No New Jails should ally with UFD and create an expanded vision for closing down prisons and jails in New York state. Let us work together to keep people out of prison. Starting with creating in prison, community-backed rehabilitation programs. Volunteers from the community can come into New York state prisons to run such programs and link them with outside grassroots efforts.
My hope is No New Jails will heed my call. This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Corrections Facility, Comstock, New York.. Follow me @FreeDontieMitchell on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Send me a email or video-gram via Jaypay.com with any questions or comments. I love to struggle in here with you.
Thank you for listening and God bless.
(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.