I once heard the saying, “If you give people enough time, you will eventually see their true colors.” Last Wednesday, on the steps of City Hall, that is exactly what happened. My fellow advocates and I showed up to have our voices heard, calling for the end of the inhumane practice of holding incarcerated individua
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to express those feelings on Wednesday, because we were prevented from holding our rally as belligerent individua
I spent most of my life in prison for crimes I committed out of anger and poverty while living in a dysfunctional household. No excuses here. Friends, family
My work as a community organizer has its challenges. There are people who support our goals – to close Rikers, reduce incarceration, protect the rights of incarcerated people, and transform our approaches to community safety – and there are people in opposition. I have no problem with principled disagreement, but what confronted us with last week was a level of aggression I have not seen since my incarceration. It transported me back to prison again, experiencing that fear. To make matters worse, the NYPD officers assigned to City Hall that day showed their loyalties and allowed it to happen – a reaction I cannot imagine if the roles were reversed. Jesse Jackson once said, “Deliberation and debate is the way to stir the soul of democracy.” Though this is true, when those efforts are confronted by hostility an
The disgusting behavior exhibited by these officers is but a glimpse of how they act when they are patrolling cellblocks, dormito
New York City’s jails are full of people who have been failed by society – who often need treatment, housing, and stable income – and are enduring the further duress that comes with being incarcerated before having a chance to make their case in court, as 90% of them are. DOC’s workforce does not have the case management skills to support the population in need of these important services – and so they keep failing at the “care” part of their “care, custody, and control” mandate. But without care, they can never achieve control, because something fundamental in all of us demands to be treated with dignity.
Throughout the hearing on Wednesday, we heard the word “accountability,” and I agree that accountability is key in building a just society. I have taken responsibility for everything I have done – good or bad – in this world. But what about bullies disguised as civil servants? No one from COBA has issued an apology – not to the public for acting like fools; not to the advocates who came to participate in what should be a democratic process; and not to the family members whose loved ones died in DOC custody, who COBA tried to intimidate and silence. Who will hold them accountable?
Edwin Santana is a former Rikers Island inmate, an advocate, and a community organizer with Freedom Agenda.