Kandra Clark served just four months at the Rose M. Singer Center, the women's jail on Rikers Island. It was nine years ago, but that memory lingers.
"When you're going to the bathroom, when you are using the toilet, male correction officers would walk around with their flashlights and stand there and stare at you. And it was the same thing with while you were trying to sleep in bed," Clark said. "I would say it's one of the most horrifying experiences that you're going to experience as a woman. It's very traumatic."
So women like her want something else: a new jail in Harlem instead.
Currently, New York City is considering opening up four new jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and in the Bronx, and shuttering Rikers Island. That proposal is making its way through the land-use process.
The women's facility is currently slated to be located at the new Queens jail.
But now, women's criminal justice groups and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer are suggesting putting it at the Lincoln Correction Facility, a state-run men's facility on 110th Street right next to Central Park. The Cuomo Administration recently said the site would close in September.
"This is an ideal site because it is in Manhattan, which is a centralized location," said Sharon White-Harrigan of the advocacy group Beyond Rosie's 2020. "It's important that the women receive wrap-around services."
"We are certainly supportive of trying to keep women in the borough of Manhattan," Brewer said.
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When NY1 asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the idea during a conference call with reporters on Friday, the governor slammed the city's slow pace of closing Rikers Island. But he didn't rule out the state stepping in.
"Tell me what you need from the state's point of view and we will be however helpful that we can," Cuomo said. "I don't know about a specific facility on 110th, but tell me what you need to execute your plan and we stand ready, willing to be of assistance."
Of course, there is skepticism from the Harlem community, including from local elected officials.
"I am very reluctant because there is a lot of concern about Harlem being the place where we put things we generally don't want elsewhere," said Brian Benjamin, a Democratic state senator representing parts of Manhattan that include Harlem.
Rikers Island is not slated to close until 2026. Those who want Lincoln Correction Facility reserved for the women are hoping it happens much sooner.
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