Eighteen body bags memorializing each of the detained people who have died on Rikers Island this year lined a sidewalk Thursday at City Hall Park, where activists, elected officials and family members called for the city’s jail complex to be closed.
Jails Action Coalition representative Candie Hailey-Means, a “solitary survivor,” spoke of her experiences as a detainee for more than three years. She was acquitted by a jury in 2016 after she awaited trial on attempted murder charges for three years.
“Out of those 1,168 days, I spent 1,122 days consecutively in solitary confinement. They need to close Rikers Island now and release everyone in there,” she said. “Because if you’re in there, you have a mental health illness. Whether you went in there with no diagnosis, you will come out with several diagnoses. I’m living proof.”
On Rikers, Hailey-Means said, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, manic depression and bipolar disorder. She said she had no history of mental illness before she was detained.
Today, nearly 6,000 people are being held on Rikers. Officials say about half suffer from mental illness.