For Immediate Release: April 15, 2016

Contact: Alyssa Aguilera, 917-200-1446,

New Yorkers Victimized by the Drug War Demand Closure of Rikers Island Jail Complex

Ahead of Major United Nations Meeting on Global Drug Policy, Protesters Denounce Drug War Policies that Have Grown NYC Jails

New York, NY – Today, New Yorkers who have been victimized by the drug war and advocates protested outside New York City Criminal Court in Manhattan to demand the closure of Rikers Island, New York City’s massive jail complex. Speakers at the event, many of whom have been incarcerated at Rikers Island themselves, denounced the failed drug war as a major driver of mass incarceration.

“I spent two years trapped at Rikers because I was too poor to make bail. You have to become violent in order to survive in there and I still have permanent health problems because of the violence. No one deserves to be treated like that. I needed help because of my drug addiction, instead I got warehoused at Rikers and feared for my life everyday.” Nathaniel Linden, member of VOCAL-NY

The corruption, violence, and disregard for human dignity at Rikers is beyond repair – and the best path forward is its closure. A significant portion of Rikers detainees are there for non-violent drug offenses, and would be much better served by social services rather than drug war tactics.

“Rikers represents the worst aspects of our country’s broken criminal justice system – it is wasteful, racially biased, unjust, and cruel.  After over 40 years of the failed war on drugs and mass incarceration, it is time for more effective policies to promote health and safety – around the world, across the country, and here at home in New York City.  The City must close Rikers, once and for all.” gabriel sayegh, co-director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Safety

Today’s Rikers protest is the fourth in a series of actions leading up to the April 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS), the biggest global drug policy meeting in over a decade and a crucial moment for confronting the disastrous global war on drugs.

“The War on Drugs has torn families apart and destroyed communities. Right now, there are thousands of people locked up on Rikers Island for drug-related crimes who should be in treatment or at home with their families. As we work to close down Rikers Island, JLUSA recognizes that the right approach to drugs should be healing those fighting addiction and creating economic opportunity for those who would otherwise turn to the drug trade.” Glenn E. Martin, Founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA

For more on UNGASS and international movement for reform, visit



Civil Rights, Press Release

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