On clear days, Kevin Steele would peek through the cracked window of his six-by-eight foot solitary confinement cell on Rikers Island to get a glimpse of his Bronx neighbourhood and mentally escape. Steele was just 17 years old in June 2010 when he was brought to Rikers Island, arguably America’s most notorious prison and the nation’s largest penal colony. He had been arrested for his involvement in a fight and had no means to pay an assigned $85,000 bail. He spent three years at Rikers awaiting trial, 13 months of that in solitary confinement. “The conditions I faced on Rikers were really horrendous,” says Steele. “Looking out of that window was my way to survive.” Steele is today an activist with No New Jails NYC, a grassroots prison abolitionist group formed last year that has become a major player in the campaign to close Rikers. The group has mobilised New Yorkers – including influential Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – against mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial $8.7bn (£6.6bn) plan to close the jail complex and replace it with four new, smaller jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx by 2026. More than 200 New York City public defenders have signed… Read full this story
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