May 9, 2022
CONTACT:Mariah McGough, firstname.lastname@example.org
VOCAL-NY RESPONDS TO DEATH OF DASHAWN CARTER, FOURTH DEATH ON RIKERS ISLAND THIS YEAR
NEW YORK – Today, in response to news of the death Dashawn Carter, a 25-year-old homeless manwho took his own life while detained on Rikers Island – the fourth death on Rikers Island this year – VOCAL-NY released the following statement, attributable to Eileen Maher and Bilal Malik, VOCAL-NY Civil Rights Union Leaders:
“Rikers Island should have been closed decades ago. It is isolated in such a way that breeds unimaginable corruption and violence. Dashawn Carter should still be alive. If leadership doesn’t get serious about decarceration, we are on track to see as many deaths on Rikers as we did in 2021. And if the Department of Corrections can’t protect people who are detained, then public safety demands that they be removed. Our lives depend on it.”
Saturday’s death was just the latest in an alarming number of deaths of detained individuals on Rikers Island. In 2021 alone, 15 people died while detained – all of them Black men or Latinos. In response to the City’s mismanagement of the jail, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has threatened to remove control from the Adams administration’s Department of Correction, and put it into the hands of the federal government.
The intersection between homelessness and mass incarceration is ever present and worsening in the wake of Mayor Adams’ effort to use policing to address New York City’s homelessness crisis – instead of investments in housing. As a part of the Caring and Compassionate New Deal, VOCAL-NY continues to fight for investments in care, services, and permanent housing instead of criminalization of those who are in crisis.
There is no link between bail reform and increased criminal activity. When New York State passed bail and discovery reform in 2019, VOCAL-NY argued that the City should immediately fund housing and healthcare initiatives to support people who were previously incarcerated, rather than increase funding for law enforcement. Instead the City gave $27 million dollars, annually, to District Attorney offices — which don’t address housing and healthcare needs, but instead actively prosecute homeless people for so-called quality of life violations.