On Monday, October 1st, 93 teens were moved from Rikers Island to the Horizon Juvenile Center in The Bronx as part of the City’s implementation of the “Raise The Age” legislation. Since this relocation, there have been several terrrible incidents involving the youth and officers, including a brawl on Wednesday, October 3rd that left 20 corrections officers injured, and another brawl on Sunday, October 7th that left 16 corrections officers and 2 captains injured. While an ACS spokeswoman stated that it is “a transitionary period for a historic reform that’s never been done before,” we must acknowledge that the early prevalence of these incidents is of great concern.
The ‘Raise the Age’ legislation marked an important step in our efforts for criminal justice reform, as it required that all youth offenders would be moved off of Rikers Island by October 1st, 2018. Leading up to this deadline, City officials ensured that both the facility and correctional staff at the Horizon Center were ready for the relocation of the Rikers youth. However, based on the incidents that have transpired since October 1st, it is clear that there is much more work to be done to ensure the safety of the youth and the officers at Horizon Juvenile Center.
I call upon City Officials and representatives from the Department of Corrections and Administration of Children’s Services to address all incidents in detail regarding their exact cause, and provide their plans for preventing these occurrences from happening in the future. Simply stating that the desks are to bolted down and the windows are to be frosted is not a comprehensive enough plan to secure the safety of all those in the facility. Furthermore, to increase transparency, these entities must allow for touring of the Horizon facility to ensure that community leaders and elected officials are informed on the current state of the facility and the utilized protocol of the correctional officers. It is crucial that there is a distinct change of culture from that of Rikers Island and a newfound focus on mentorship, rehabilitation, and age-appropriate services. The collaborations at the Horizon Juvenile Center must be improved in our fight for criminal justice reform and not a continuation of the inhumane policies of Rikers. Moving people from a building without changing the culture does not resolve the root concerns. We cannot stop fighting until we safeguard the protection and well-being of the youth, officers and all impacted at the Horizon Juvenile Center.