Getting People Off Rikers Island in a Pandemic



The infection rate from COVID-19 in New York City’s Rikers Island jails is currently almost 30 times the rate for the U.S. as a whole. As the city struggled to get people out from behind bars—criticized both for moving too slowly, and for even contemplating releasing anyone early from a jail sentence—it turned to a trio of nonprofits to repurpose a successful program on the fly. The urgency of supporting people being released abruptly from jail in the midst of a pandemic is clear, but so are the challenges. The experience also raises the question: what happens to criminal justice when the virus ends?

Interview recorded on May 1

Episode page

See a summary of results from the Rikers Early Release Program

Listen to a related New Thinking: ‘Jail-Attributable Deaths’


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