Faith Leaders Demand Action From New York City's Mayor to Ensure Safe Reentry for Those Leaving Rikers Island During COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, Trinity Church Wall Street and prominent faith organizations, including The National Action Network, led by Rev. Al Sharpton; Central Synagogue; and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, launched Faith Communities for Just Reentry, a coalition calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to enact immediate measures to provide safety and support for those being released from Rikers Island during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Without adequate support, those who are being released because of COVID-19 are facing homelessness and illness – and that’s not acceptable.” said the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, Priest-in-charge and Vicar of Trinity Church Wall Street. “The pandemic has magnified the systemic racism of the criminal justice system and, as faith leaders, we have an obligation to call for action.”

“The Mayor and City Council have the power to fix this,” he said. “Their immediate action is urgent because of the pandemic and these actions would also address the ongoing need for support and dignity for those re-entering society. Each year, 15,000 to 20,000 New Yorkers are caught in the cycle of incarceration and homelessness, 80% of them people of color.” 

“Jewish tradition teaches that one may never say to a penitent, ‘remember your former deeds’ (Mishnah, Bava Metzia 4:10),” said Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Senior Rabbi at Central Synagogue. “In fact, our sages accord a sacred status to those who transform and change their lives through the process of atonement. ‘In the place where penitents stand, even the wholly righteous cannot stand’ (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 34b). And yet, over and over again, our city not only reminds those returning from jail or prison of their justice-impacted histories, we also actively deny them the resources and support needed for their re-entry journeys and ongoing transformations,” she said. 

“As a people who believes in the power of repentance and atonement, we urge our city to not only welcome home our brothers and sisters who have served their time, but to embrace their personal transformations as models for all of us embarking on personal and collective journeys of change and evolution,” she said.  

The coalition, which includes leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim faith communities, is proposing a three-point Policy Agenda for urgent action to: 

1. Provide safety for people released from incarceration during COVID-19 by providing them with valid identification, an effective healthcare transition that allows people to immediately access the care and medication, and timely coronavirus testing.

2. Ensure that justice-involved individuals have stable homes by ending permanent exclusions from government-supported housing and discrimination in the private market, modifying the rental assistance voucher system, and leveraging public funds to create new housing to meet their needs. 

3. Develop a coordinated reentry system that works across government agencies and is held accountable to the well-being of each person so that this will not happen again.

Contact: Tiani Jones, 917.710.3289, tjones@trinitywallstreet.org

Source: Trinity Church Wall Street

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Categories: Public Safety

Tags: covid-19, Episcopal, Homelessness, non profits, Philanthropy, Racial Justice, Religion, Rikers Island


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