New York, NY, March 22, 2022–In response to the 16 people who have died at Rikers last year1 and third death on Rikers in 2022,2 Matt Kudish, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI-NYC) made the following statement:
We must prioritize mental health treatment, not jail, for New Yorkers living with mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and other disabilities. Mental health and drug courts can provide support, healthcare, and critical off-ramps from the criminal justice system. Rikers inmates, more than half of whom are affected by mental illness and almost 17% of whom have a serious mental health diagnosis,3 are not receiving treatment and continue to be subjected to inhumane, unsafe conditions, including solitary confinement. We must expand access to mental health and recovery services as an alternative to incarceration and place treatment decisions in the hands of health care professionals, not lawyers or judges. We cannot forge ahead with plans for new or expanded jails, when individuals need community-based, behavioral health providers, and recovery services now.