315 Linwood Street, Brooklyn, NY 11208 sharon@wcja.org

We are dedicated in supporting and advocating for all justice impacted women and gender expansive populations.

On April 26th, we held a rally at the New York Stock Exchange and on Zoom with directly impacted people, activists, and survivors of Rikers Island. As we rallied, we uplifted women & gender expansive people on Rikers and the horrible conditions in which they suffer.

We call on the New York City Council, those running for council positions, the Mayor, mayoral candidates, and anyone running for office in New York City to commit to closing the Rose M. Singer Center before the 2027 deadline. The replacement facility should not house more than 100 people and be a place of healing and resources rather than punishment.

Currently, the Queens facility which will house women is scheduled to be built last, meaning that women and gender expansive people will be the last to leave Rikers Island. In the meantime, DOC plans to spend $107 million renovating the Rose M. Singer Center. We advocate to use those resources to house women and gender expansive populations in their own communities, while providing then with trauma informed and trauma responsive resources.

Press coverage of the #WhatAboutHer Women at Rikers rally – “#WhatAboutHer? Financial District rally seeks to help women incarcerated on Rikers Island”

Press reslease: WCJA Calls for the Urgent Closure of the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island:

WCJA Calls for the Urgent Closure of the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island 

New York, NY (April 26, 2021) – The Women’s Community Justice Association (WCJA) is calling on Mayor De Blasio to urgently move to close the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island and reverse the rising jail incarceration rates for women and gender expansive people in New York City. He must urge New York City judges to stop sending women and gender expansive people to pre-trial detention on Rikers Island. We also call on the Mayor to utilize work release options for women currently serving City sentences, and to urgently establish a facility in a central location that can enable the immediate closure of the Rose M. Singer Center and ensure that no more than 100 women and gender expansive people are incarcerated in New York City’s jail system. 

“Mayor De Blasio has publicly committed to decarcerating New York City by closing Rikers and yet over the last year, we have seen the number of women incarcerated there nearly double,” Executive Director of WCJA Sharon White-Harrigan, said. “The conversations about decarceration are too often dominated by men and their needs; and women, Black women and especially incarcerated women, are left out, or treated as an afterthought.” 

The Rose M. Singer Center is slated to close last among the Rikers Island jails, yet the conditions at the facility are some of the most egregious and inhumane among city jails. Stories of abuse and corruption among correctional officers have been put on the record for years; however, not only is the city incarcerating people at the Rose M. Singer Center in alarming numbers, city agencies are proposing a renovation of the facility to the tune of $107M as the solution to the facility’s horrific conditions. 

“Women and gender expansive people are simply not safe on Rikers Island, said Eileen Maher, VOCAL-NY leader, “and no amount of investment in renovations will change that.” 

Indeed, an April 2019 report from the BOC detailing sexual harassment and abuse complaints submitted by people in custody and by staff, showed that over 60% of reportable complaints were perpetrated by correctional officers on incarcerated people. This same report also listed the Rose M. Singer Center among the two facilities with the highest number of complaints and the highest rate of complaints during the reporting time period. 

Council Member Darma V. Diaz, Chair of the Women and Gender Equity Committee, who is still suffering from the after-effects of COVID19 after testing positive nearly a month ago said, “Overall 34 in 100 people detained or incarcerated have contracted the virus, according to the New York Times. That statistic is a shameful one, and the thought that mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters are sitting on Rikers Island trying to survive a host of inhumane conditions and a pandemic, is just heartbreaking. It is imperative that we protect the well-being of women and gender expansive people in our city.” 

“This is why we are holding this rally, to call for the urgent closure of the Rose M. Singer Center, “said Kandra Clark, VP of Policy & Strategy at Exodus Transitional Community, “that report is damning evidence that no women or gender expansive people incarcerated there, and that the facility should be closed as soon as possible.” 

“Incarcerated women’s lives matter, Director of Community Engagement at WCJA Jordyn Rosenthal, said. “There is no reason to send another woman or gender expansive person to Rikers Island or to keep the Rose M. Singer Center open for another six years.” 

Currently, almost one-third of the women and gender expansive people currently detained on Rikers Island are there for property crime allegations and up to 14% are being detained on parole violations. 

“As we work toward parole reform and lowering the jail population, we have an opportunity to act to change trajectories of justice-involved individuals by investing in supportive resources and making progress on our promise to close Rikers Island.” said Keith Powers, Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee 

“We are not revenue for the city. Our community members are valuable and worthy of humane treatment, holistic medical and mental healthcare and at all times the right to counsel,” Minister, Dr. Victoria A. Phillips, Founder of Visionary V and Jails Action Coalition member stated. “As a society we need to hold all of those in position of power accountable to end modern day slavery and reinvest in the very communities that have been destroyed by the criminal legal system. The women are set to be removed last from the island, yet women are expected to be the foundation within our communities. We move mountains without resources, and we nurture without anyone caring to assist in replenishing our souls, move them off Rikers Island now.” 

This series of demands addresses the needs of detained women and gender expansive people; the WCJA is calling on Mayor De Blasio to:

  • Urge New York City judges to cease remanding women and gender expansive people to pre-trial detention, setting bail or requiring bond payment for women and gender expansive people that result in pre-trial detention; 
  • Utilize work release options to release all women currently serving City sentences;
  • End broken windows policing that contributes to jail incarceration for women on parole;
  • Move to urgently establish a facility in a central location that can enable the immediate closure of the Rose M. Singer Center and ensure that no more than 100 women and gender expansive people are incarcerated in New York City’s jail system; 
  • Invest in resources for justice-involved women and gender expansive people that include transitional and supportive, permanent housing, accessible, trauma-responsive healthcare, food security, career and education opportunities. 

Advocates are organizing a rally on April 26, 2021 in front of the New York City Stock Exchange to advocate for the rights and well-being of women and gender expansive people detained or incarcerated on Rikers Island and to uplift the April 27, 2021 New York City Council Oversight Hearing on Women’s Experience in New York City Jails jointly called by the Committee on Women and Gender Equity and the Committee on Criminal Justice. 

About WCJA:

WCJA was founded in 2018 by a diverse group of justice-impacted women who share a personal and professional mission to create the current and next generation of community leaders, activists, storytellers, and the authors of their own future. WCJA’s work was born directly from the realization that there was a lack of women representation in the CloseRikers campaign. As originating co-leaders of that movement, WCJA took the lead on gathering the stories of twenty women and girls who were detained in the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island.