Are NYC's Jails Ungovernable? (Closing Remarks)

Michael Jacobson

August 02, 2023

So, it's been almost two hours and I know we're all ready to go. I just want to say a couple of high level things before I thank all the participants. I say this knowing that for the participants, and for the people who are viewing this, there's a mix of folks who are experts, who live in this world and have strong positions one way or another, and folks who are tuning in because they’re interested and these are important issues.

Two of the things we've tried to do in these two panels through our excellent moderators are place some of these current problems in a historical context and make incredibly clear the importance of transparency and how it relates to almost everything we're talking about. Key to some of the things we discussed is the relationship between the issues we're talking about and closing Rikers Island. They are inseparable. They are of a piece. We've tried, through a lot of our experts, to make clear what the powers of a receiver and the variations between different kinds of receiverships are. Sara and Hernandez’s examples of what other receiverships can look like are food for thought, both for the people on this webinar and obviously for the judge.

All of the problems we’ve talked about — violence, length of stay, missed medical appointments, absences, etcetera, etcetera — have to be brought down now, and those indicators have to start going in a better direction. That's necessary. It’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient, because the other thing that has to happen — under the guide of transparency and openness — is that Rikers Island has to be closed, which implicates population. As a number of people have made mention of, there has to be a cultural and organizational change process to have a different mindset, to have a system that's based on human dignity and human rights. All those things have to happen together.

It's an incredibly daunting challenge. Whether the judge decides on a receiver or not, government is going to have to figure out how to do all three of those things in the short term and the long term. As Stanley said, to shine light on a very dark place. All of that has to happen regardless of the structure that the judge decides on. It's something for all of us to think about. It's axiomatic. It's a categorical imperative that the City undertake that. Whatever form of governance we have, those things are essential for the people who work on Rikers and the jail system, and they're certainly essential for the people who are housed there. 

I hope we've given folks some information, some food for thought. Thank you all so much for coming. A special thanks to Jan and Errol for being such excellent moderators, to the organizations that co-sponsored this and obviously, to all the excellent panelists and to all of you folks for joining. There will be a way for you to send questions in if you haven't already, through Vital City. Liz, I don't know if you want to say a word about that.

Okay. Anna's putting it in the chat. You can send them to That's where questions will be fielded. Feel free to ask away and follow up on anything that you've heard. We look forward to hearing from you and responding. Thank you all so much for doing this.