Town Hall On Criminal Justice Reform Hosted Amid Calls to Close Rikers Island

A town-hall style meeting was held Monday night about the future of Rikers Island after some high-profile calls to shut down the city jail complex. Political reporter Courtney Gross has the story.

There were many stories at a Monday town-hall hosted by the Reverend al Sharpton and the correction officers union about reforming Rikers Island.

"This department really is the worst I've seen," said Officer Yolanda Lee.

 It came nearly two weeks after City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito suggested the city should examine whether Rikers should be shut down.

 It's an idea that did not receive an endorsement at the National Action Network.

"Close them and put people where? House them where? And what would the conditions be? If you can't correct the conditions in Rikers how are you going to correct them elsewhere?" asked Al Sharpton who runs the network.

"You're putting that jail in the south Bronx across that bridge right here or you're putting it down the street on 125th Street somewhere or you're putting it in Bedford Stuyvesant or you're putting it in Red Hook," said Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officer's Benevolent Association.

Of course the topic is a heated one.

One protester got escorted out, saying it was the head of the correction officers union who should be put behind bars.

"They are the ones responsible," the protester said. "They are the ones that should be brought up on charges and facing punishment and repercussions over what their role has been. And that torture chamber needs to be shut down."

Whether Rikers should close was not the only topic of conversation. Many attendees decried the violence flooding the sprawling jail complex, with the Bronx district attorney promising to do more.

"Now I inherited a lot of things," said Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark. "So it's not all mine. That doesn't mean that I'm not responsible for it now."

Sharpton said this is not the only forum he plans to have on the subject. He hopes to actually go to Rikers and speak to the inmates themselves.

 "We're trying to work that date out now," Sharpton said.

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