Tuesday, Color Of Change and the Vera Institute of Justice spoke out against the ongoing crisis of violence and death taking place inside Rikers Island—where 14 people have died this year following the suicide death Monday of Anthony Scott, above.
The Vera Institute of Justice released this statement on Scott’s death and the situation at Rikers:
“Yesterday, Anthony Scott became the fourteenth person to die in 2021 in New York City jails. Scott, who is autistic and survived a suicide attempt while being held on $15,000 money bail, is yet another tragic example of the City’s failure to act on the public health and safety crisis happening in its correctional facilities.
“Fully aware of the conditions on Rikers Island, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance allowed $15,000 bail to be set on Scott’s case, rather than requesting treatment, counseling, medical attention, or any number of interventions that could have adequately addressed this situation.
“Anthony Scott’s suicide is the sixth this year alone in city jails. This is not normal or routine; although Rikers Island has never been a humane place, there were no documented suicides in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
“We will continue to call on New York City’s District Attorneys and other government actors to change course and address this unprecedented crisis at Rikers Island.
“Scott’s death is further proof that the steps taken so far are inadequate.”
Scott Roberts, Senior Director of Criminal Justice and Democracy Campaigns at Color Of Change, issued this statement following the death of Anthony Scott:
“Anthony Scott should still be alive today. His death, which follows the deaths of thirteen other Black and Brown individuals incarcerated at Rikers this year, serves as another painful reminder of the humanitarian crisis happening in New York City’s backyard. To address this crisis, we need decarceration.
“While Black and Brown people make up 52 percent of the city’s population, they are ninety percent of the population at Rikers Island, an overwhelming majority because they cannot pay bail, leading to a two-tiered system of injustices wherein the human costs are enormous. In the past eighteen months, Rikers has seen multiple waves of COVID-19 outbreaks, unconscionable violence, and corruption. But instead of releasing people on their own recognizance amid this crisis, DAs continue to set bail well above what people can pay. Mass incarceration has always been dangerous. But now, during the spiraling crisis on Rikers Island, it can be a death sentence.
“New York officials must address the Rikers Island disaster, and that begins with New York’s prosecutors. These individuals wield tremendous power in stemming the tide of violence against incarcerated individuals, but none of them choose to use it.
“In Manhattan, which accounts for one-fifth of the city’s total population but is responsible for one-third of Rikers Island’s population, District Attorney Cy Vance is fueling New York’s mass incarceration crisis. New York prosecutors must stop requesting money bail and enabling violence Rikers if we ever hope to end this crisis and protect Black and Brown lives.”
Update: This afternoon New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams released the following statement on the situation at Rikers Island:
“Within hours of the Board of Correction releasing a report on Nicholas Feliciano and the city’s failure to prevent attempts of suicide and self-harm in jails, that report was confirmed and reinforced as Anthony Scott lost his life following his own suicide attempt. His is the fourteenth life lost within the city’s jail system this year, and it again makes clear that the Department of Correction is proving unable to fill the basic mandate of protecting people in its custody, especially people at-risk of or experiencing mental health crisis. Everyone agrees that our jail cannot be used as mental health treatment centers, and yet it persists.
“The Board’s report shows clear inadequacies in Nicholas Feliciano’s case that are not situational but systemic. Anthony Scott’s death also makes clear that the problems with the city’s jails extend beyond the shores of Rikers Island. The recommendations in the report are positive, but as I pray for the family of Anthony Scott, for Nicholas Feliciano and his family, it is clear that we need transformational change to truly address the tragedies of a too-often unjust and inhumane system.”