Advocates: Prosecutors, Judges are Driving the Rikers Crisis

Legislators, public defenders, and impacted New Yorkers gathered outside the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office on Wednesday to demand that all five New York City District Attorneys immediately end their cash bail practices, which are driving the crisis on Rikers Island, as reported by the New York Post.

In addition to the increasing spread of COVID-19, a mass wave of staff absenteeism has compounded long-standing problems to create an extraordinarily dangerous environment for people who are incarcerated in City jails. At least twelve people have died in Department of Correction custody this year already.

A letter co-singed by The Legal Aid Society accuses prosecutors of compounding that crisis by unlawfully requesting bail for people who cannot afford it and pose no risk of flight.

“Because your offices control bail requests, you can stem the flow of people to Rikers right now,” the letter reads in part. “Every time your ADAs request bail be set, particularly when they know that bail is unaffordable, they demonstrate a callous disregard for human life.”

Advocates are also reiterating their call for judges to stop setting bail, another critical step in keeping New Yorkers off of Rikers Island.