Address the Crisis at
Rikers Island is a stain on New York. Tess will continue to demand immediate improvement of the conditions at Rikers and advocate for its ultimate closure. And she will use the power of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office to release as many people as possible from Rikers, and to investigate the inhumane and traumatic conditions that have led to the deaths of so many New Yorkers.
To do that, Tess will:
Decarcerate Rikers. On her first day in office, Tess and her staff will begin reviewing every case of every person currently held at Rikers and seek the release of people who do not pose an imminent threat to any individual’s safety. Tess will also review probation allegations that send people to Rikers. These steps will drastically reduce the overall number of people who are held pretrial.
Implement new office bail policies. Tess will also establish clear office policies that ensure compliance with New York’s bail laws, will regularly train line prosecutors on those policies and laws, and will place supervisors in courtrooms to support policy implementation. Tess will also designate a pretrial detention director to conduct a final evaluation of every person held pretrial and revisit each decision on a regular basis, and who will monitor the timeliness of trials for those who remain held in jail pretrial.
Investigate conditions at Rikers. Tess will open a special grand jury investigation into the conditions at Rikers to examine the dozens of deaths that have occurred in recent years. Through the grand jury, Tess will obtain and review surveillance videos, business records, incident reports, and data related to every death in the last two years. As appropriate, she will issue reports regarding the abuses at Rikers and make recommendations for changes.
Prosecute correctional officers who commit crimes. While the Bronx District Attorney has oversight of Rikers and the officials who work there, there have rarely been any consequences for guards who violently abuse and criminally neglect vulnerable people held there—despite video evidence. Tess will change that by forming a dedicated unit tasked with holding prison guards and law enforcement who cause harm accountable, which will be walled off from the rest of the office to prevent conflicts of interest.