“The number one priority for both city and state government right now should be to create an accessible, humane and trauma-responsive center in New York City for the few women and gender-expanding people who will remain incarcerated.”
This is very clear: New York A plan to relocate women and people extending their gender from Rikers Island Staying 40 miles from the city is not the long-term solution to the unreasonable conditions in city prisons.
a fact The solution is to divert women affected by justice to community-based alternatives, housing, and other community services. This is one of the key principles of our #BEYONDrosies campaign, which has long advocated the closure of the Rose M. Singer Ladies Facility in Rikers.
Fighting for Rosie’s gendered women and people is personal to me, as are many of my #BEYONDRosies sisters and brothers. She was imprisoned, first at Rikers Island and then at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, the same prison to which the women and hypersexuals of Rosie are being transferred under the new plan of Governor Cathy Hochhol and Mayor de Blasio.
Unfortunately, the inhumane conditions inside these facilities are all too familiar to me and many of the women at #BEYONDrosies. We know the pain of being separated from our loved ones and the devastating uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds.
But we also know that there are other ways to deal with women and other transgender people who end up in our justice system – and these methods should be used. Too often, they are locked up and forgotten, especially those accused of violent crimes.
Research and experience tell us that the majority of women and people who are sexually expansive are themselves trauma survivors. Take Rikers. More than two-thirds of the women in Rosie have experienced intimate partner violence, and nearly a quarter have serious mental illness. The vast majority have not been convicted of any crime. They will eventually end up back in society with the added trauma of the time they spend behind bars.
Women need support, housing, and universal services, not prison. It is well established that this is the best approach to treat affected people with justice and to promote public safety.
While this transfer to Bedford was not the result of the social justice we were fighting for, it does happen. In fact, despite our calls to stop until there is time to provide individual assessments to all Rosie residents, transfers have already begun. It is essential that this be done correctly.
To this end, #BEYONDrosies is working with our fellow advocates and service providers to prevent any unnecessary transfers to Bedford. This means advocating for the rapid release of women who can be better served in alternatives to imprisonment and community programmes.
Because time is of the essence, we need all five New York City attorneys, judges, and defense attorneys to step up. They must make sure that every qualified person gets the right place, and they must do so quickly. Lives are at stake.
Meanwhile, Governor Hoechul stated that this transfer was temporary, and we will keep her promise. On the day these transfers were announced, #BEYONDrosies said we look forward to working with our first female governor to find a lasting solution for the people at Rosie’s. We mean it. Finding this durable solution means being clear about all the hard work we need to do.
So let’s be clear: The number one priority for both city and state government right now should be to create an accessible, trauma-responsive, humane center in New York City for the few women and gender-scaling people who will remain incarcerated.
We do not mean to establish version 2.0 of the Rosie software. This would be a tragedy….. The city and the state must fulfill this moment of change and transformation that we are experiencing by creating a new center focused on healing and treating women with respect, safety, dignity and justice.
None of this will be easy. Never change. But this transfer has shed much-needed light on the women and people who are expanding their gender in Rosie. For the first time, people are talking seriously about Rosie and what we need to do moving forward.
Of course, we need more than just talk. We need city and state leaders to put the women and gender-scaling people of Rosie first by taking concrete actions that will ultimately improve their lives for the better. Transfers aren’t the answer, but if done right, they can be the start. Let’s get started already.
Sharon White Harrigan is the executive director of the Women’s Community Justice Association, who leads # goat Campaign to close the Rose M. Singer women’s facility on Rikers Island.