Every year, more than 5,500 women, mostly women of color, are admitted to the jail at Rikers Island. Under pressure to close Rikers Island, one of the biggest and most notorious jails in the country, the city has already taken concrete steps to make closure a reality by reducing the number of people in jail and identifying sites for new jails in four of New York City’s five boroughs. Yet one of the risks in this moment of opportunity is that the needs of specific populations within the criminal justice system—especially women—will be overlooked.
New York City must be deliberate and focused in making sure that criminal justice reform does not overlook
the experience of justice-involved women. To this end, a group of stakeholders led by the Vera Institute of Justice and The New York Women’s Foundation began meeting regularly over several months in 2017 to answer the question: “What would it take to get all women off Rikers Island now?”
This report, released by The New York Women’s Foundation in partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice, seeks to identify gender-informed strategies for getting New York City women disentangled from the criminal justice system. The policy and practical recommendations provided serve as a blueprint for ensuring that women are not overlooked in the fight to end mass incarceration in the city.
This report offers recommendations for how New York City can embrace a different approach at three critical junctures in the criminal justice system: 1) at arrest; 2) at arraignment; and 3) when women are held at Rikers.