Putting jails in our neighborhoods.
The decision of closing Rikers Island puts jails in our neighborhoods — but before you assume the worst of it, think of this.
Prisons are meant to rehabilitate prisoners. If the close of Rikers Island means that there will be prisons within the block of some residential places, then so be it. This means that the prisoners will be placed within civilization. They’re closer to reality, and their friends and family are able to visit them more often than the brutal trip to Rikers Island. As the Fortune Society notes, one of the most important factors to maintain stability upon release is the strength of the relationship with family.
Not only that, but the strength of legal representation is compromised in the current system due to the inability of attorneys to reach their clients. By having the detained individuals closer to the courts where they will be tried, it will have a critical impact on their contact and accessibility to lawyers.
Prison reform advocates in Britain call for correctional facilities to be “normalized,” in other words, to resemble real life. When the incarcerated feel more connected to reality, they do better when they re-enter society.
While some may initially reject the idea of having a jail next to the local grocery store or a popular tourist location, many architects and social theorists believe that it promotes positive behavior and removes the ominous look of a standard jail.
Shutting down Rikers Island is a long-term project, but the decision to close it looks forward to a future where the justice system is more humane and fairer. Rikers has had a bad reputation, and for good reason. It’s time we work towards a better criminal justice system.