Below are two sections of related resources. The first provides more background about the Renewable Rikers project. The second shares information about prison abolition from people who are working toward a vision of decarceration. We’d like to invite you to think beyond the closing of Rikers to a world without environmental injustice or incarceration. Decarbonization and decarceration are connected; both stem from a need to replace extractive, racist, and profit-centered thinking with a humane, respectful, and life-giving approach to land and people.
Renewable Rikers Resources
Rebecca Bratspies | August 31, 2020
This presentation by Rebecca Bratspies at CUNY School of Law provides background on the history of Rikers Island, the connections between environmental injustice in NYC and incarceration at Rikers, the shifting legal landscape, and the restorative justice Renewable Rikers would provide.
The bare minimum to start addressing Rikers Island’s horrific legacy is to ensure, as the jails there are closed, that the island’s future uses benefit and respond to the wishes of the people and communities that have been harmed through its long, painful history. After hundreds of conversations with people who’ve been incarcerated on Rikers and had loved ones there, a consensus emerged: use the island for green infrastructure through the Renewable Rikers Plan.
Rebecca Bratspies | March 12, 2020
Enacting Renewable Rikers would be a moment for environmental justice. The proposed bills before the New York City Council would improve air quality for environmental justice communities, which are frequently the same communities most impacted by mass incarceration, and by incarceration at Rikers.
WE ACT for Environmental Justice | February 11, 2021
WE ACT for Environmental Justice has been working to advance the Renewable Rikers Act alongside New York City Councilmembers Costa Constantinides (District 22), Helen Rosenthal (District 6), and Ben Kallos (District 5) as well as the Freedom Agenda, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, and other organizations. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has already pledged to close the Rikers Island jail complex, the nation’s largest penal colony, by 2026.
Harvey Murphy & Fernando Ortiz | November 19, 2019
In the East River, between the Bronx and Queens, sits a 400-acre landmass known as Rikers Island. Since 1932, New Yorkers have been banished there when accused of a crime or a parole violation, or to serve short sentences. Tens of thousands of people cycle through Rikers each year, but until recently—when people and families who’d experienced the hell of Rikers began organizing to close it—it was almost invisible to the rest of New York City. So invisible that it wasn’t even labeled on the subway map.
In October 2019, the New York City Council passed, and Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law, land use plans to create four modern jail facilities and permanently close the jails on Rikers Island. The new facilities will be located closer to courts and communities. The Borough-Based Jails plan is scheduled to be complete by August 2027.
Rebecca Bratspies | 2022
Global (and domestic) patterns of energy extraction, generation, and consumption have placed inexcusable burdens on the same communities of color that are facing state-sanctioned violence. Calls for a just transition involved recognizing these interconnections, and intentionally planning with them in mind. This Article offers New York City’s Renewable Rikers project as an example of how this might be done, and how communities might combine decarbonization with decarceration in order to build a more just and sustainable society.