Int. 1348-A Offers Important Programming to All Persons Detained on Rikers Island for More Than 10 Days

NEW YORK, NY – On Thursday, August 24th, New York City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. welcomed family members of Kalief Browder to City Hall for the City Council’s passage of Int. 1348-A, the Kalief Browder Bill. The bill makes inmate programming – currently available only to sentenced inmates – available to all persons detained on Rikers Island for a period exceeding 10 days.

Rikers Island houses roughly 10,000 persons on a daily basis, with about 77,000 passing through the facility in total every year. Of those, roughly 85 percent have not been convicted of a crime. As of today, individuals merely awaiting trial at Rikers Island often spend months or even years without access to structured services. Too often, these long stays in the confines of Rikers lead to tragedies, as in the case of Kalief Browder.

“Kalief Browder, a young man who maintained his innocence, awaited trial on Rikers Island for three year,” said Council Member Cornegy. “Much of Kalief Browder’s time on Rikers was spent in solitary confinement, and all of his time was spent without access to services that may have saved his life. The Kalief Browder Bill will ensure persons incarcerated on Rikers Island have access to the services they need so no other Rikers detainee is forced to suffer Kalief’s fate.”

As a result of Int. 1348-A, all persons detained on Rikers Island must be offered 5 hours per day of inmate programming. “Inmate programming” is defined in Section 9-144 of the New York City Administrative Code as including “any structured services offered directly to inmates for the purposes of vocational training, counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, addressing drug dependencies, or any similar purpose.”

Mary Lynne Werlwas, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Program at The Legal Aid Society, said, “The Legal Aid Society stands behind this critical step towards providing needed programming to persons in custody many of whom-like Kalief Browder-were never convicted of a crime. For too long incarcerated persons in NYC DOC custody have languished with nothing to do all day, increasing the risks of violence and wasting a critical opportunity to provide services to ease the trauma of incarceration and help with the difficult transition back home. The tragedy of Kalief Browder should never be repeated. The provision of these needed services is hugely important.”

In addition to avoiding horrible tragedies like that of Kalief Browder such programming has been shown to greatly reduce rates of recidivism amongst incarcerated persons.

“In addition to possibly saving lives, programming for persons detained at Rikers for long periods of time mandated by Int. 1348-A provides opportunities for them that have been shown to reduce the chances they end up in jail again,” said Cornegy. “Whether it be reducing an individual’s dependence on drugs or teaching them a skill they can use to find employment upon release, ensuring the individuals on Rikers Island have access to the services they need is paramount to improving the outcomes of our criminal justice system.”