Roqayah is off this week, and Kumars is joined for a discussion of New York City’s recently approved jail expansion by three organizers with the prison abolitionist campaign No New Jails NYC, Pilar Maschi, Samantha Johnson and Nabil Hassein. Pilar, who was formerly incarcerated in the notorious Rikers Island facility, also organizes with Critical Resistance NYC. Samantha is a Community Board member on Community Board 2 in Brooklyn, which voted against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $10 million plan, and Nabil is an educator and technologist who has previously organized with the Shut Down Rikers campaign among others.
After sharing a bit of their personal paths towards organizing, Nabil, Pilar and Samantha give listeners a gloss of the horrific conditions at Rikers, separating fact from fiction with regard to the facility’s violent reputation. The crew then walks us through the details of the legislation, detailing why they opposed the plan to ostensibly close Rikers within the next 10 years and replace it with 4 new borough-based jails. They explain how, despite the media’s overwhelming sympathy with de Blasio’s framing, NNJ NYC organizers were nonetheless able to mount a serious challenge to City Hall’s narrative, putting pressure on the city government through escalating direct actions and bringing unprecedented visibility to abolitionist principles including the critique of liberal rhetoric around “safer” and more “humane” incarceration.
According to a report from the New York Times and Associated Press, between 2011 to 2013 alone there were over 1,000 documented injuries against inmates, with many more likely unreported
Follow Nabil on Twitter @NabilHassein, Pilar @pilar_maschi and Samantha @1samanthajoh, as well as No New Jails NYC @nonewjails_nyc. You can also find all the resources referenced in the episode and more at nonewjails.nyc.