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

Press Statements


October 13, 2021

#BEYONDRosies Campaign Applauds Gov. Hochul for Closing Rose M. Singer at Rikers 

Statement from Sharon White-Harrigan, the Executive Director of the Women’s Community Justice Association, which leads the #BEYONDrosies campaign to shut Rose M. Singer women’s jail. 

“Governor Hochul has made this a historic day for the justice-impacted women who have been leading the #BEYONDRosie’s movement to close Rose M. Singer for years. It is not lost on us that the state’s first female governor made closing Rosie’s a priority, and we look forward to partnering with her and the city on ensuring a smooth temporary transition to Bedford, and permanent solution that includes releasing those who can be more effectively and safely served by community alternatives-to-incarceration programs.

The #BEYONDRosies campaign would also like to thank Mayor de Blasio for his support of this effort, and Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi for being a champion for the women of Rosie’s. This has been a place of incredible trauma for our mothers, daughters and sisters, most of whom are themselves victims of abuse. Today the healing begins.”

Sharon White-Harrigan is available for interviews. 

Women’s Community Justice Association (WCJA)

Founded in 2018, WCJA is a non-profit organization led by justice-impacted women who launched the #BEYONDrosies campaign to close the Rose M. Singer women’s jail on Rikers Island. WCJA’s work was born directly from the realization that there was a lack of women representation in the #CloseRikers campaign. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, WCJA created the Justice4Women Task Force in 2020 to focus on the needs and safety of incarcerated women and those returning to their communities throughout New York State. 

#BEYONDRosies  

The  #BEYONDrosies campaign is aimed at closing the Rose M. Singer women’s jail on Rikers Island, and ensuring that incarcerated women receive the comprehensive, trauma-informed and empowering services that they deserve to heal and have a successful reentry. #BEYONDrosies goal is to improve justice, dignity and safety for women, invest in a smaller justice system, and invest the savings to strengthen communities by:

  1. Closing Rosie’s immediately, rather than the city’s planned 2027 date.
  2. Releasing the majority of women who can safely and effectively be served community-based alternatives to detention programs.
  3. Securing a permanent downstate facility for the smaller female population that remains.

Sharon White-Harrigan  

Sharon White-Harrigan is the Executive Director of the Women’s Community Justice Association, which leads the #BEYONDrosies campaign to shut Rose M. Singer women’s jail on Rikers Island. Drawing on her experience as a licensed social worker, domestic violence survivor, and formerly incarcerated person, she has expertise in direct services and policy advocacy campaigns that support justice-impacted women. Sharon is a minister, motivational speaker, adjunct lecturer, consultant, and therapist. Sharon was a leader in the successful effort to enact New York State’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act in 2019. She also serves as an advisory member of the Survivor’s Justice Project, the co-lead of the Bedford Hills project, a strategic consultant  and senior advisor to the Women & Justice Project, a member of the International Advisory Committee with the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, co-convener of the Justice for Women Task Force, and co-founder & executive member of Women Building UP. In her presentations, Sharon draws upon her expertise as a licensed social worker, survivor of violence, and survivor of 11 years of incarceration. She holds a master’s degree in Social Work from Lehman College, a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice from City University of New York where she was a Thomas W. Smith Fellow, and an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Marymount Manhattan College.


October 12, 2021

#BEYONDRosies Campaign Renews Its Calls to Close Rose M. Singer

Shutting “Rosie’s” women’s jail would help address crisis at Rikers

New York, NY – The Women’s Community Justice Association (WCJA), which leads the  #BEYONDRosies campaign, is reiterating its calls to close the Rose M. Singer women’s facility on Rikers Island following yesterday’s devastating story in the New York Times about the crisis in city jails. 

“As the justice-impacted women leading #BEYONDRosies, it hurts us to know that mothers and daughters continue to suffer there. Most have not been convicted of a crime, and most have been victims of serious trauma,” said Sharon White-Harrigan, Executive Director of WCJA. “Closing Rosie’s and decarcerating women is key to addressing the crisis on Rikers Island. With fewer than 300 women in Rosie’s, shutting it would free up staff immediately and create a model to close the facilities for the much larger male population in the future.”

“We appreciate the leadership of Department of Corrections Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi and other officials and advocates who have supported #BeyondRosies, and reiterate our call for a three-point plan to:

  1. Close Rosie’s immediately, rather than the city’s planned 2027 date.
  2. Decarcerate the majority of women who are more effectively served by community-based alternatives to detention programs.
  3. Secure a permanent downstate facility for the smaller female population that remains.”

WCJA was founded 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 which can be viewed here.


April 26, 2021

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.