News & Press2022-07-27T13:38:55-04:00

News & Press

Work from our staff and members on decarceration and system transformation. Some of these articles pre-date the official formation of Freedom Agenda, reflecting our organizers’ long experience in this field.

New York City’s $7 Billion Jail Construction Project Delayed Beyond 2027 Deadline

May 19th, 2024|

Digital Chew

“On the Mayor’s watch, 31 people have died and countless others have experienced abuse, neglect, and violence at the Rikers Island penal colony,” commented Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda.

Op-Ed: New York City Must Move Forward on Closing Rikers with a Budget that Invests in Care, not DOC Budget Bloat

May 19th, 2024|

Freedom Agenda

"Last year...the City Council reaffirmed its commitment to the plan to close Rikers by 2027 and establish a smaller borough-based jail system to reduce incarceration and improve conditions for incarcerated seems Mayor Eric Adams’ determination to stall the plan has not changed either."

‘A Little Perplexed’: Questions Raised Over City’s $4 Billion Contract for Construction of Queens Jail

May 17th, 2024|

Queens Eagle

“There is a realistic plan for reducing the jail population to meet the target of fewer than 3,300 individuals incarcerated in city jails, and a critical component is prioritizing decarceration of people with mental health concerns and expanding supportive housing and community mental health supports,” Jennifer Parish, the director of Criminal Justice Advocacy at Urban Justice Center's Mental Health Project.

Four Billion Dollars and Four Years Late: Queens Jail is Over Budget and Behind Schedule

May 8th, 2024|

Queens Eagle

“There is a realistic plan for reducing the jail population to meet the target of fewer than 3,300 individuals incarcerated in city jails, and a critical component is prioritizing decarceration of people with mental health concerns and expanding supportive housing and community mental health supports,” said Jennifer J. Parish, the director of Criminal Justice Advocacy at Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project

New Jails in Bronx, Queens on Track to Open Four Years After Deadline to Close Rikers Island

May 7th, 2024|

NY Daily News

“This administration has consistently undermined its legal and moral obligation to close Rikers and complete construction of the borough-based jail system by the mandated deadline of 2027,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda.

Rikers Closure Looms While Correction Officials Confront Immediate Problems

March 8th, 2024|


“We’re here because Mayor Adams proposed a budget which is a recipe for keeping Rikers open by maintaining the Department of Corrections bloated budget,” said Darren Mack, co-director, Freedom Agenda at the Urban Justice Center."

Adams Agency Blesses Green Rikers Island While City Hall Scoffs At 2027 Shutdown Deadline

March 7th, 2024|

The City

"Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda at the Urban Justice Center and an organizer of the campaign to close Rikers, described frustration at a climate of disinvestment in city communities that rely on government for services and opportunities."

Some Rikers Detainees Haven’t Gotten Outdoor Rec In Over A Year, Oversight Board Finds

February 29th, 2024|

Queens Daily Eagle

“Being in jail, in the first place, is inherently traumatic and not having access to recreation exacerbates that,” Darren Mack, the co-director of Freedom Agenda [part of the Urban Justice Center]."

NYC Increases Number of Detainees To Be Held At Borough-Based Jails That Will Replace Rikers

February 23rd, 2024|


"Jail chaplain Victoria A. Phillips [of the Mental Health Project], another detainee advocate who signed the letter to the mayor, said women should have their own facility where they don’t risk contact with male detainees."

The New York Community Trust Announces $7.7 Million In Grants To 39 NY Nonprofits

February 13th, 2024|

Harlem World

The New York Community Trust today announced more than $7.7 million in grants to 39 nonprofits... [including] Freedom Agenda: $150,000 to advocate to repurpose Rikers Island and reform the city’s approach to incarceration.

My Son Died From Solitary Confinement On Rikers

January 29th, 2024|

NY Daily News

"Solitary confinement killed my son, Brandon Rodriguez, on Aug 10,2021. It is wrong and disgusting for Mayor Adams to lie to the public and say the city jails don’t use solitary confinement and haven’t used it since 2019." - Tamara Carter, Freedom Agenda member advocate

Manuel Luna Is The Second Person To Die On Rikers In 2024

January 25th, 2024|

Amsterdam News

“[Rikers Island] continues to kill our neighbors and leave more families devastated,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda.  “Instead of continuing to send people there, the Mayor needs to make the investments that will keep people safe: housing, mental health treatment, and other services to support people in our communities.”

Rikers Island Detainee Found Dead In Cell – Facility’s Second Death In First 19 Days Of The New Year

January 20th, 2024|


"Darren Mack, co-director of the Freedom Agenda, which has been lobbying for Rikers’ immediate closure — said Luna’s death was yet another sign that the facility’s days of holding incarcerated individuals must be numbered."

Calls to Close Rikers Reignite after First Death in Custody of 2024 in City Jail Confirmed

January 11th, 2024|

Norwood News

"Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda, gave his reaction to Williams’ death, saying, “Today, yet another family is grieving the loss of their loved one in the custody of the City of New York. This shameful tragedy makes the stakes even more clear – we need to stop sending people to Rikers to die right now."

City Expands Commission to Close Rikers

December 19th, 2023|

Queens Eagle

"The most important tangible step Mayor Adams can take to show his commitment to closing Rikers is to finally make this month’s land transfer deadline and start the process of closing jails like [the Anna M. Kross Center] that are not in current use...” [said] Darren Mack, the co-director of Freedom Agenda."

Should Solitary Confinement Be Banned? New York City Mayor Eric Adams Says This

December 18th, 2023|

The Root

"Brandon Rodriguez died by suicide at Rikers island in 2021. Last year, his mother, [Freedom Agenda member] Tamara Carter, testified in support of the [solitary confinement] ban at a City Council hearing last year."

NYC Mayor Adams Pledges to Close Rikers Island But Wavers Again Over 2027 Deadline

December 17th, 2023|


"Darren Mack, cofounder of Freedom Agenda, a nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated people and their communities, said Adams could show he’s serious about closing Rikers by meeting this month’s land-transfer deadline under the 2021 Renewable Rikers Act."

Advocates Host Town Hall To Discuss Mental Health, Incarceration

December 4th, 2023|

News 12

“The public health aspect is people with mental health conditions are not getting adequate care, especially in prison you're not gonna get that so we're trying to change that whole system,” said Marco Barrios, a representative from the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project."

Mental Health, Legal System To Intersect At Neighborhood House

December 1st, 2023|

Riverdale Press

“I know there are lots of people in the community that already care about these issues,” said Ryan Acquaotta, the campaign coordinator for the Freedom Agenda..."It’s not just demanding more police, more weapons, more surveillance, more cages. We also need more housing, more treatment, more jobs, more health care and education.”

Open Criminal Courts Report Finds At Most 6% of New York Criminal Court Decisions Are Published

November 27th, 2023|

Reinvent Albany

"Darren Mack, co-Director of Freedom Agenda, a project of the Urban Justice Center: “New York’s courts, like Rikers Island, live largely out of sight and out of mind for most New Yorkers. And when the people don’t know what’s going on, there can be no accountability."

Behind 94 Acts of Shocking Violence, Years of Glaring Mistakes

November 20th, 2023|

NY Times

"When [Freedom Agenda member] Nathaniel Evans, 51, started as a peer specialists for one of those teams, run by a nonprofit called CASES, in 2019, he shared a caseload of more than five dozen people, he said. One of his clients was a man named Elijah Muhammad."

Rally Held to Call for Justice for Inmates Who Have Died on Rikers Island

November 18th, 2023|

CBS News

"I got the worst call September 22nd that my son was dead. I didn’t get a call from DOC. I didn’t get a call from any commissioner. I got a call from a friend in there that was frantic,” [Freedom Agenda member Lezandre Khadu] said."

Mayor Adams Shuffles Louis Molina From DOC Commissioner To Assistant Deputy Mayor For Public Safety

November 9th, 2023|

Amsterdam News

Freedom Agenda co-founder Darren Mack, a member of the Campaign to Close Rikers, believes the jail complex cannot be reformed regardless of who takes over. “I hope that this mayor appoints a new commissioner who clearly understands that Rikers can’t be fixed,” he said.

The End For New York’s Floating Jails

November 8th, 2023|

The Star

Darren Mack, co-director of the advocacy group Freedom Agenda, described the boat as a “modern day slave ship” used by the department to warehouse detainees, mostly Black and Latino men, with minimal oversight. While noting the closure was long overdue, he added, “shifting people to the same hellish conditions on Rikers is not the answer.”

The Vision of a Renewable Rikers Island in NYC

November 7th, 2023|


“It wasn’t until I actually went back to Rikers as a volunteer for a restorative justice pilot project for adolescents that, for the first time, I saw a sign that said ‘Don’t drink the water,’” says Mack, co-founder and co-director of a grassroots decarceration organization called Freedom Agenda. Though visitors were advised to avoid drinking it, “people who are detained there are forced to drink the water,” he says. “That was a red flag.” 

Renewable Rikers Renews Calls For Green Transformation Of Jail Complex

November 6th, 2023|

Mott Haven Herald

As criminal justice advocate [and Freedom Agenda member] Marco Barrios noted, taxpayers in New York City spend more than $550,000 per year to incarcerate a single individual, while public housing and mental health services face budget cuts.

Last Operating U.S. Prison Ship, A Grim Vestige Of Mass Incarceration, Set To Close In NYC

November 5th, 2023|


Darren Mack, co-director of the advocacy group Freedom Agenda, described the boat as a “modern day slave ship” used by the department to warehouse detainees, mostly Black and Latino men, with minimal oversight.

Mayor Adams Must Be Held Accountable on Rikers

October 26th, 2023|

Amsterdam News

“Mayor Adams is also questioning the plan to close Rikers now, saying that he expects the jail population to increase instead of shrink. With the return to broken windows policing, his massive cuts to social services, and his frequent fear-mongering, he’s worked hard to make his prediction come true.” - Edwin Santana, Freedom Agenda 

More than 15,000 Rikers Jail Video Visits Canceled Since 2020

October 19th, 2023|

The City

"[The process of] getting a video visit was a nightmare,’” Melissa Vergara [a member advocate with our Freedom Agenda project], whose son was locked up on Rikers last year, told THE CITY. “They’d [DOC] always cancel them. They’d alway say we don’t have enough staff.”

Rikers Island Jail Had a Secret Lounge, Stashes of Unused NYC Equipment

October 16th, 2023|

NY Daily News

“‘This is what happens when DOC is allowed to operate a penal colony with little to no oversight, and yet another reason to accelerate the closure of Rikers Island,’” said Darren Mack of Freedom Agenda."

How Rikers & Eric Adams Corrupted Louis Molina

October 6th, 2023|

NY Daily News

“‘The people incarcerated at Rikers are at a grave risk of immediate harm’ This declaration by Manhattan Federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain, tasked with deciding whether or not to strip control of Rikers Island from New York City, is an affirmation of a truth groups like Freedom Agenda have long known to be self-evident: Rikers Island is beyond repair.”

Sudden, Silent Death: Rikers Island Detainee Found Dead in Cell a Week After Being Detained

October 5th, 2023|


"We need to invest in housing, mental health treatment, and other services to support people in our communities, improve safety, and keep people out of Rikers. And we have to close that death camp down quickly,” said Freedom Agenda Co-Director Darren Mack."

Mentally Ill NYC Robbery Suspect Dies on Rikers Island 7 Days After Being Detained

October 5th, 2023|

NY Daily News

“‘Rikers Island continues to kill our neighbors and traumatize our communities and somehow Mayor Adams thinks this is a path we should continue on?’ said Darren Mack of Freedom Agenda.”

Oversight Board Urges City to ‘Recommit’ to Rikers Closure Plan

October 4th, 2023|

Queens Eagle

“Sarita Daftary, the co-director of Freedom Agenda, blamed the mayor and his administration’s policies – including the NYPD’s recent increase in issuing criminal summonses and budget cuts that have led to the elimination of social services intended to keep people out of the criminal justice system – for Rikers’ ballooning population. “

Grassroots Leaders’ Perspectives on Advancing Criminal Legal Reform and Sustaining Movement Support

September 29th, 2023|

Philanthropy NY

“I'd like to highlight the issue of foundations cutting back on funding for mass incarceration reform efforts. Campaigns in this space often span multiple years, yet many grants are awarded for only one or two years." - Darren Mack, Freedom Agenda

New Bill Would Bring More Transparency to Deaths in DOC Custody

September 28th, 2023|

News 12

"If passed, the DOC would be given specific procedures to follow after someone dies in custody...It's a move that that could have saved [Freedom Agenda member] Tamara Carter a lot of heartbreak. Her son, Brandon Rodriguez, died in custody in August 2021. She says it took a week to receive any information about his death."

Rikers Throws Out $40K of Instant Mashed Potatoes Due to Boxes Full of Bugs

September 14th, 2023|


[Freedom Agenda member] Loray Hodge said her son — who is currently detained at the OBCC facility on Rikers — told her there are “worms and bugs” in the food. She and other family members are currently sending him about $100 per week to spend at the commissary, she said.

WE ACT Organizes Against Adams’ Reversal of Rikers Closure

September 13th, 2023|

Columbia Spectator

“He’s gotten away with not saying that he doesn’t want Rikers to close, even though all of his actions say that very thing,” [said John Proctor, the communications and digital organizing manager of the decarceration organization Freedom Agenda.]

NYC’s Floating Jail Set To Close Next Month, Inmates To Be Transferred To Rikers Island

September 7th, 2023|

News 12

"The barge is going to close, but what's up with Rikers," said Edwin Santana, community organizer for the Freedom Agenda and a formerly incarcerated person at Rikers and the Vernon C. Bain Center. "Don't just deal with one problem and neglect the next issue..."

NYC jail barge Vernon C. Bain Center to close; detainees, staff moving from Bronx to Rikers Island, other lockups

September 5th, 2023|

NY Daily News

“The Boat, like Rikers Island, should have closed a long time ago,” Lezandre Khadu, a member of the Campaign to Close Rikers [co-founded by UJC’s Freedom Agenda], said in a statement."

NYC’s ‘Floating Jail’ Will Close Next Month After 31 Years

September 5th, 2023|


“I'm glad to hear that 'the Boat' is going to close in October,” Santana [a criminal justice advocate with the Urban Justice Center's Freedom Agenda] said. “But I'm saddened to hear that they're going to put the people that are on the boat on Rikers, because no one should be at Rikers."

Prison Reform Advocates Renew Calls For Mayor Adams to Close Rikers Island: ‘He Has an Obligation’

August 31st, 2023|

Pix 11

“Let the mayor know that he has an obligation to close this place down,” said Ashley Conrad of the advocacy group Freedom Agenda. “This is law. It’s a plan that was well thought out and curated by years and years of organizing by directly impacted people.”

Rikers Island 2023 Death Count Doubles To Six In Deadly July

July 27th, 2023|

NY Amsterdam News

“The mayor knows that Curtis Davis, like thousands of other people at Rikers, was at great risk, harm, and death every day he was there, and Adams is telling New Yorkers he’s fine with that—but we’re not,” said Freedom Agenda co-director Darren Mack."

Death of 7th Rikers Island Detainee Curtis Davis Renews Calls For Federal Takeover

July 25th, 2023|

CBS News

"'[Rikers] was very dangerous. I remember, 16 years old, I got jumped like two times by 20 people, people try to cut me, stab me,' said Nathaniel Evans, of the Freedom Agenda."

Brooklyn’s Replacement for Riker’s Is Already Larger Than Expected

July 24th, 2023|

BK Eagle

"Critics [of Mayor Adam’s approach to borough-based jail expansion], including Darren Mack of Freedom Agenda and Megan French-Marcelin of the Legal Action Center, have criticized the mayor for expanding the jail facility while decreasing the therapeutic units."

Rikers Closure Campaigners React to Death of Curtis Davis “7th Person to Die in NYC Jails in 2023”

July 23rd, 2023|

Norwood News

"Meanwhile, Freedom Agenda co-director, Darren Mack, a survivor of Rikers, also released a statement saying Davis, 44, was the third person to die in the New York City jail system this month, the 26th person since New York City Mayor Eric Adams took office, and the 42nd in the past two years."

Brooklyn’s Borough-Based Jail Proposal Expands by 150 Beds

July 21st, 2023|

Queens Daily Eagle

"Mayor Adams ran for office saying he would get Rikers closed, but has been doing everything in his power to fill it up with more and more people struggling with addiction, mental health needs, and unstable housing,” [Darren] Mack, [co-director of the UJC's Freedom Agenda] said.

NYC DOC rolls back transparency as a third Rikers-related death in 2023 is reported

June 8th, 2023|

NY Amsterdam News

“If the mayor actually plans to invest in mental health, we’d see people like Mr. Valles getting the help he needed in the community,” said Freedom Agenda’s Darren Mack."

Mayor Adams defends NYC Correction Commissioner Louis Molina’s decision to not disclose inmate deaths in city jails

June 1st, 2023|

NY Daily News

"Lezandra Khadu, [a member of Freedom Agenda and] the mother of Stephen Khadu, a 24-year-old inmate who died at Rikers in April 2022 from meningitis, confronted Adams at an event in Brooklyn earlier this week to ask him if he had an update on what’s going on with a city investigation into her son’s death."

Advocates rally to demand closure to Rikers Island after recent death of inmate

June 1st, 2023|

News 12

"Advocacy groups and concerned New Yorkers joined together outside of City Hall on Thursday to call on Mayor Eric Adams to shut down Rikers Island for the safety of inmates and New Yorkers."

On Jail Reform, One Size Doesn’t Fit All

May 30th, 2023|

Chief Leader

"Nationally, on average, for every four people in jail, there is one correction officer on staff, whereas on Rikers, for every four people in jail, there are four and half,” wrote [Darren Mack of Freedom Agenda & Councilwoman Carlina Rivera] in a piece advocating for the closure of the island penal colony by 2027.

Riley Leads Press Conference at City Hall to Close Rikers

April 13th, 2023|

Norwood News

Riley, who represents parts of the north Bronx, and Restler, who represents parts of Brooklyn, were joined at the event by advocates from the Freedom Agenda..."Closing Rikers is a foundational part in addressing the injustices of systemic racism in our criminal justice system...” said Riley.

Lessons of loss from Rikers: The inhuman jail must be closed in 2027

March 26th, 2023|

NY Daily News

"The pain of losing my son has been unimaginable. But it deepens my pain to hear Mayor Adams talking about creating a “Plan B” to closing Rikers, and pointing to shootings like those that killed my son as the reason.” - Peggy Herrera, advocate and member of Freedom Agenda

Brooklyn Jail Construction Delay Raises Doubts About Rikers Closure Plan

March 16th, 2023|


"Rikers should have been closed decades ago and this administration should be exercising leadership to find every way possible to do it faster,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda...How many more lives is this mayor willing to see lost or forever damaged in that hellhole?”

NYC may house inmates at half-finished Brooklyn jail to comply with ‘flawed’ Rikers Island closing plan: Mayor Adams

March 15th, 2023|

NY Daily News

"Freedom Agenda co-director Darren Mack agreed with Gerard and urged Adams to immediately take “tangible steps” toward winding down operations on Rikers. “These include permanently closing empty jails on Rikers as mandated by law, starting with the Otis Bantum Correctional Facility."

Speaker Adams Outlines Vision to Prioritize ‘People Over Everything’

March 8th, 2023|

NYC City Council

“We know that the safest communities are the ones with the most resources, not the most incarceration,” said Darren Mack, Co-Director of Freedom Agenda, Urban Justice Center. “The long-overdue investments Speaker Adams has outlined – in supportive housing, community-based treatment, and diversion and re-entry programs – will make our communities stronger, healthier, and safer, and keep us on the path to closing the Rikers Island jails."

Anna Pastoressa Public Comments on Rikers Island

March 1st, 2023|

"My name is Anna Pastoressa, and I am a member of Freedom Agenda. My son spent 6 years on Rikers Island waiting for trial and I visited him every weekend. It was a very stressful and long-lasting process to get to Rikers and one of the most important parts of the visit for me was to bring a package of clean clothes to him..."

Poor People’s Campaign: West Virginia prisoner deaths the ‘tip of the spear’

February 28th, 2023|

People's World

"The latest was Edgardo Mejias, 39, who died in late December. “He had been arrested under suspicion of shoplifting perfume,” the institute said. It called New York City’s jails “abominable.” “Edgardo Mejias was delivered a death sentence without a trial,”  Freedom Agenda Co-Director Darren Mack told the Vera researchers."

Tech snafu delays vote on controversial DOC plan to digitize detainee mail

February 15th, 2023|

Queens Daily Eagle

"Anna Pastoressa, a member of Freedom Agenda and the mother of an incarcerated person, spoke out against the mail and package policy during the rally in Manhattan on Tuesday... “By blocking packages, you’re blocking laundry, you’re blocking hygiene, you’re blocking dignity," Pastoressa said."

Family & Elected Officials Urged Board of Correction to Not Let Correction Dept Ban Love this Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2023|

Office of the NYC Comptroller

"This mail variance is just a band-aid, instead of addressing the real issues. People inside are not getting proper care, and they’re not getting programs, so they are desperate for something to fill their time. DOC needs to address that issue, not put one more barrier between incarcerated people and their loved ones,” said Marco Barrios, a member of Freedom Agenda and Criminal Justice Advocate with the Mental Health Project Urban Justice Center."

Advocates say ‘death is not enough’ for changes at Rikers Island after the New York City jail sees 1st fatality of 2023

February 8th, 2023|

Yahoo! News

“They need treatment, not jail,” Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda, one of the key organizations leading the campaign to close Rikers, said. “As long as Rikers remains open, more people are going to die.”

Rikers Island sees first in-custody death of 2023 as prisoner dies in infirmary

February 4th, 2023|


"But former Rikers inmate Darren Mack of the Freedom Agenda, a nonprofit working to have the jail shut down on or before its scheduled closure in 2026, charged that “Pines was killed by a criminal legal system that has no regard for human life – from police, to courts, to DOC.”"

DOC: 1st inmate death of 2023 reported at Rikers Island

February 4th, 2023|

News 12

""The mayor knows what Rikers Island is about. He knows the culture of violence, he knows how it is, but they continue to look for ways to send people there. Close it, close it down. Shut it down today. There's no fixing it, there's no reforming it. It just needs to be shut down," said Edwin Santana, of Freedom Agenda."

Opinion: Mayor Adams, Stop Stalling on Plan to Close Rikers

February 1st, 2023|

City Limits

“Rikers Island is not a necessary institution. There are plans and legislation underway that will remove our neighbors and fellow New Yorkers off of Rikers and into a smaller system borough-based facilities. This would bring families closer to their loved ones, improve conditions for people detained, and end our over-reliance on incarceration.” - Hope Sanders, a member-organizer of Freedom Agenda.


January 23rd, 2023|

The Intercept

"'The system constantly punishes people with the least power, which is incarcerated people and their loved ones, without actually taking any accountability for the Department of Correction themselves,' said Ashley Conrad, an organizer with Freedom Agenda..."

No word yet on jail officials’ controversial plan to intercept detainee mail

January 11th, 2023|

Queens Daily Eagle

"Ashley Conrad, a community organizer with Freedom Agenda, said...that the proposed change to the mail system..."will continue to punish incarcerated people and their loved ones in the way that this system always has,” Conrad said. “I assure you, mail variance or not, drugs and contraband will make its way onto Rikers Island – through officers, as they mostly do.'"

Rikers Island shoplifting suspect dies of suspected overdose, 19th death in NYC jails this year

December 12th, 2022|

NY Daily News

“Edgardo Mejia was delivered a death sentence without a trial,” said Darren Mack, co-director of the Freedom Agenda, an advocacy group for people impacted by incarceration.“What will it take for judges, prosecutors, and police to stop churning people through this death trap, and for the mayor to stop encouraging them?”

NYC Needs Thousands of Apartments for the Formerly Incarcerated. 50 Face Furious Opposition

December 5th, 2022|

City Limits

"Nearly every single person on Rikers Island will be released at some point. And when they get out, they will need a place to live, said Darren Mack, a formerly incarcerated organizer with the Freedom Agenda project of the Urban Justice Center."

Turkey Day at Rikers

December 1st, 2022|

Amsterdam News

“Anna Pastoressa, a founding member of a leading campaign to close Rikers, Freedom Agenda, felt Adams’ comments calling detainees “some of the most violent offenders in the city” mischaracterized those actually held in the infamous jail... “These are presumably innocent people according to our Constitution and they are innocent until proven guilty.”

‘Digitized Love’: How Prison Mail Bans Harm Incarcerated People

November 26th, 2022|

Rolling Stone

"Brian, a longtime activist [with UJC’s Freedom Agenda] who served a year in New York’s Rikers Island in 2006 and then two shorter stints years later for parole violations, says he is 17 months sober thanks to 12-step programs. “You’re not gonna keep drugs out of anywhere,” he says. “Instead of spending all that time and resources, they’d be way better spent and more effective put into education programs, self-help programs, 12-step programs. That’s what’s gonna get people off drugs.”

New York City Communities Say #EraseTheDatabase

November 20th, 2022|

The Paper

“We stand with the GANGS Coalition to end this gang database this year,” Darren Mack, co-founder, and co-director of the Urban Justice Center’s Freedom Agenda said to the crowd at Brooklyn Borough Hall. “After that, we want all those resources that the NYPD utilized to operate that system to go back into our community.”

Con el crimen desbordado, Adams resiste las presiones para cerrar la prisión de Rikers

November 17th, 2022|

La Politica Online

Este plan no es suficiente para Edwin Santana, organizador comunitario del movimiento Freedom Agenda. Santana ejerciendo de maestro de ceremonias en una multitudinaria protesta frente al gobierno municipal, lanzó un mensaje claro para el alcalde Adams: "Ni arreglar ni reformar Rikers, la cárcel hay que cerrarla ya!"

Demandan que cierren la prisión y mejoren condiciones de reos en Rikers Island

November 15th, 2022|

NY1 Noticias

"La verdadera seguridad pública radica en recursos para nuestras comunidades, porque constantemente encarcelamos a las personas más vulnerables con problemas de salud mental, adicción a las drogas, pobreza", dijo Ashley Conrad, coordinadora de Comunidad Freedom Agenda.

The Crisis at Rikers Island

November 14th, 2022|

WNYC Studios

"Eighteen people jailed at Rikers Island have died this year, the most since 2013. Darren Mack, co-director of the Urban Justice Center's Freedom Agenda, a member-led project organizing communities impacted by incarceration, joins us to discuss the continuing crisis, the activist response and the latest on efforts to close Rikers."

Closing Rikers: 18th jail death leads to 18-hour protest, 18 body bags by City Hall

November 10th, 2022|

NY Amsterdam News

“2022 has become one of the deadliest years in the history of NYC Department of Corrections,” said [UJC's] Freedom Agenda co-director Darren Mack. “The dysfunction, chronic staff absenteeism, and lack of accountability has intensified. Advocates have been sounding the alarm and calling for urgent action from the City.”

18 hours of Action: Riker’s Island Closure Demands Repeated at Lower Manhattan Protest

November 3rd, 2022|


"Members of the [UJC organized] Jails Action Coalition, #HALTsolitary Campaign, Freedom Agenda [of the Urban Justice Center], VOCAL-NY, and more set out faux body bags along with the names of those who have perished while imprisoned. Organizers claimed that about 1,000 inmates on the penal island suffer from mental illness, making the DOC facility a caretaker for mental health."

Rikers Staff Tampered With Records, Hiding Intake Rule Violations, Documents Show

October 17th, 2022|

NY Focus

"To advocates, the apparent dashboard tampering is evidence that conditions on Rikers are far worse than the DOC is willing to admit. “DOC seems to be willing to try anything to hide the deadly dysfunction in the City’s jails,” said Darren Mack, co-director of the Urban Justice Center’s Freedom Agenda, a member of the Campaign to Close Rikers."

Fallout from City Hall protest clash continues

October 4th, 2022|


"While growing up in jail and prison, guards used racism, humiliation, intimidation, and aggression to make sure I knew exactly how they felt about me every single day and night. It did not matter if I was weak or strong, smart, or struggling, in their eyes I was less than a human being." - Op-Ed by Freedom Agenda Advocate Edwin Santana

Yet another Rikers Island inmate dies in custody – the third since August

September 14th, 2022|


"It’s now been just over a year since my son’s death in that place, and three more people have taken their own lives in the past month alone. I don’t know what the Mayor is waiting for to do something. Does he even care?" - Freedom Agenda Member Tamara Carter

Detainee hangs himself on Rikers Island, marking 14th in-custody death

September 14th, 2022|

NY Post

“What are we going to have to do? Do they want us to film each funeral to see the families’ pain up close and personal? Doing nothing equals more death. The humans on Rikers are screaming for help. Is anybody going to help them?" - Freedom Agenda member Tamara Carter

‘These jails are killing people’: Advocates, former Rikers Island prisoners rally ahead of corrections board hearing

September 13th, 2022|


“I experienced Rikers Island firsthand as a teenager,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda. “Rikers Island cannot be reformed. The only solution for Rikers Island is closure.”

Protesters gather in Manhattan demanding closure of Rikers Island

September 13th, 2022|

News 12

"People just think that you get arrested and you go to court. No, you get arrested and you have to wait for your court date. And before you even see a judge or go to trial, Boom, something happens and you're dead." -  Freedom Agenda organizer Edwin Sanatana (1:35 mark in video)

Another death at Rikers as rate of fatalities exceeds 2021

August 31st, 2022|


“How could a place be so evil?” asked Carmichael, who is now an activist [with UJC's Freedom Agenda] pushing for better conditions at Rikers. “Right here in the biggest city in the country and arguably one of the most progressive, loving cities. How could this be happening?”

NYC jail workers allegedly watched as suicidal Rikers Island inmate bled to death

August 31st, 2022|

NY Post

The advocacy group Freedom Agenda said Nieves bled to death while corrections officers and a captain watched.  'While Mayor [Eric] Adams was publicly questioning whether we should or could send less people to jail, a man with serious mental illness was clinging to life after guards ignored his suicide attempt,' the group’s co-director, Darren Mack, said. 

Former Neurologist Convicted of Sex Abuse Found Dead in Apparent Rikers Island Suicide

August 15th, 2022|


Monday’s death prompted stern reaction from the Freedom Agenda, a criminal justice advocacy group calling for Rikers Island’s closure. Tamara Carter, whose son Brandon Rodriguez died on Rikers Island last year, excoriated the Corrections Department for the latest fatality.

DOC two months late on deadline to transfer part of Rikers Island

August 11th, 2022|

Daily Eagle

Darren Mack, the co-director of [UJC's] Freedom Agenda, said closing and transferring facilities would be a win for everyone involved, pointing to the potential for correction officers to not be stretched as thinly and, in turn, enable detainees to have better access to medical services and programming....“We hope this mayor will follow the law that's been established by the Renewable Rikers Act,” he added. “At this moment this administration is operating outside of the law… and I think this administration needs to take the next step, which is transfers.”

I-Team: Locking Prisoners in Narrow Shower Stalls Called ‘Inhumane’ at Rikers Island

July 15th, 2022|


"[UJC Freedom Agenda member] Tamara Carter’s son, Brandon Rodriguez, 25, committed suicide last year while locked inside a decontamination shower. She has also filed notice she intends to sue. 'I can’t imagine what my son went through,” Carter said."

Another Rikers Island death: Ninth inmate dies in correctional facility this year

July 11th, 2022|


“What DOC and the courts are failing to admit is that we are in a human rights emergency. The chronic staff absenteeism continues while DA’s and judges are unnecessarily sending people to a potential death sentence. New York City’s communities need accountability, decarceration, and ultimately closure of the jails,” [UJC's] Freedom Agenda Co-Director Darren Mack said in a statement.

Coaliciones de NY exigen a Alcalde Adams que acelere el cierre de Rikers: “Este año el infierno está peor”

July 7th, 2022|

El Diario

“Darren Mack, director de la organización Freedom Agenda agregó que el Departamento de Correcciones de la Ciudad de Nueva York sigue “violando implacablemente los estándares mínimos de la Junta Correccional, la ley estatal y los Derechos Humanos”.

At the Last Minute, City Officials Put Brakes on Alternative to Solitary Confinement at Rikers

June 30th, 2022|

The City

“‘Far too many people have been traumatized, tortured, and lost their lives in DOC custody, especially in solitary confinement,’ said Darren Mack, co-director of [UJC's] Freedom Agenda and a member of the Jails Action Coalition.”

Rikers Island, push for decarceration and a federal takeover?

June 23rd, 2022|

Amsterdam News

Criminal justice advocate Darren Mack, co-director of [UJC's] Freedom Agenda, said that Rikers should have closed a long time ago because no one is safe there. “We need immediate decarceration, like the effort we saw at the beginning of COVID-19, with action from judges, prosecutors, and the DOC commissioner with the support of the mayor,” said Mack. “Without that, they are choosing to let people die.”

Another inmate dies at Rikers Island, marking seventh DOC death this year

June 20th, 2022|

NY Post

"[UJC's] Freedom Agenda, an advocacy group working to close Rikers, lambasted the DOC for the seventh death in less than six months. 'As the Department of Correction generates plans to create plans, New Yorkers continue to suffer and die in their custody,' Freedom Agenda’s co-founder Darren Mack said in a statement."

My Son’s Pretrial Incarceration Shows Everything Wrong with the System

June 17th, 2022|

Gotham Gazette

"Now my son is considering taking a plea. It’s really tempting – he wants to be home, and he especially wants to get out of Rikers. But it’s not fair. My son, like so many others, was harassed by the police for being homeless, held for ransom by a judge, and denied due process by guards who don’t care about doing their jobs. Where’s the justice in that?" - Freedom Agenda Member, P. Mass

Open polling sites at Rikers Island for inmates, advocates say

June 6th, 2022|

NY Daily News

“Greg Williams, 57, who was detained at Rikers in 2020 on a parole violation, said the absentee system was confusing. ‘It just didn’t work the way they had it set up,’ said Williams, an activist with the advocacy group Freedom Agenda...“‘People didn’t know how to get absentee ballots in a timely fashion, who they were supposed to turn to, and there was no one to really advise them."

Amid chaos on Rikers, borough jail plan on schedule with planning, construction in Queens, Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn

June 6th, 2022|

NY Daily News

"'Anybody who says that’s not enough [beds] has an investment in incarceration,” [Darren Mack, of UJC's Freedom Agenda] said. “To backpedal against what is now the law, it would be subject to lawsuits.'”

20-Year-Old Emanuel Sullivan Becomes 22nd Rikers Island Prisoner to Die Since 2021

May 31st, 2022|

Democracy Now!

"In response, [Freedom Agenda] community organizer and Rikers survivor Edwin Santana said in a statement, “This tragedy should show every judge, prosecutor, and elected official who has ignored this truth before — Rikers is a death sentence."

Closing the Pipeline that Feeds the Disaster of Rikers

May 26th, 2022|

Gotham Gazette

"History shows that we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way to public safety. We can no longer tolerate a city budget that reflects this false notion. With the release of the mayor’s executive budget proposal, it is clear that we have work to do before this year’s budget deadline to move in the right direction." [Op-Ed by Darren Mack of Freedom Agenda and Rev. Wendy Brown]

Rikers Island crisis: Formerly incarcerated leaders and allies demand urgent humanitarian action in facility

May 24th, 2022|


“A receiver may be able to cut through some of the dysfunction accumulated from decades of political cowardice, appeasement of COBA, and disregard for incarcerated people, but Rikers cannot be fixed,” said Darren Mack, Co-Director of Freedom Agenda [at UJC]. “It must be closed, and the Mayor should be taking every opportunity to expedite those plans.” 

An Earth Day “To Do” List for NYC’s Mayor & Council Speaker

April 20th, 2022|


"The Renewable Rikers coalition, spearheaded by groups like Freedom Agenda, envisions turning this island of shame into a showplace of sustainability, with a solar array and energy storage, expanded composting and a modern wastewater treatment plant."

Highlights and Takeaways from Beyond the Bars 2022

April 19th, 2022|

Columbia U. Neighbors

"The Columba Center for Justice's Beyond the Bars conference resumed with an in-person gathering at Riverside Church that brought together the movements for decarceration, abolition, and climate and environmental justice...The day's second plenary panel featured...Darren Mack (Freedom Agenda)."

Fenced up: Protesters rally in Chinatown as new jail construction prepares to begin

April 11th, 2022|


"Many people are and will be involved in the criminal legal system even as we make progress to reduce incarceration.  Building borough jails is a necessary step to protect human rights – along with accountability to make sure these jails are run differently – and we urge the mayor to move quickly on both,” Anna Pastoressa said, a member of Freedom Agenda.”

Decepción por presupuesto estatal de NY que deja por fuera iniciativas de ayuda a inmigrantes y modifica reforma de fianzas

April 8th, 2022|

El Diario

“Darren Mack, codirector de la organización Freedom Agenda, se refirió a los cambios en las leyes de fianzas, y aseguró que justo cuando se necesitaba que la Gobernadora y los legisladores defendieran las reformas judiciales y se restaurara la financiación de los servicios sociales, hicieron todo lo contrario.”

Op-Ed: Why the Vernon C. Bain Center Should Close

April 7th, 2022|

Norwood News

"The Vernon C. Bain Center, also known as “The Boat,” is perhaps the only floating jail in the country. Advocates have equated it to a slave ship. It’s an extension of Rikers Island. I know both The Boat and Rikers Island well, since I’ve been detained at both places..."

Op-Ed | We Must Protect Incarcerated People and Reduce Crime When Jails Close Down

March 27th, 2022|


"We are at a historical moment. With The Tombs set to be replaced, and Rikers required to close by 2027, we must all be laser focused on two things: reducing incarceration, and protecting the human rights of people who are still detained."

State Sen. Ramos Calls on City Council to Invest in Mental Health Services as Opposed to Prison System

March 24th, 2022|

Astoria Post

“State Sen. Jessica Ramos is calling on the city council to invest in mental health services for alleged lawbreakers...echo[ing] the message of the Freedom Agenda, the group that organized the rally outside City Hall. According to the group, the city spends more than $556,000 a year per inmate on jail operations.”

Front Fighting Against Hochul’s Plan to Reverse Criminal Reforms and Bail Law in New York

March 22nd, 2022|

American Post

“'Our message is not only for the Governor but also for Mayor Adams: you have to close Rikers Island, because it is clearly not doing any good for our community. Last year there were 16 deaths there and we are only in March and there are already three people dead in a system that is not working,' assured Edwin Santana, a member of the Freedom Agenda."

Decarceration advocates furious over third Rikers Island death, call out Governor for ‘mass incarceration’ agenda

March 21st, 2022|


“Hosted by a coalition of advocacy groups including #HALTsolitary Campaign, New York City Jails Action Coalition, and Freedom Agenda, attendees looked to both remember the lives lost and take the Governor to task for allowing Rikers Island to continue under previously-reported deterioration.”

Opinion: It’s not a ‘megajail’ — but it’s sorely needed

March 8th, 2022|

The Village Sun

It means to me that most of you don’t mind decrepit buildings, infamous dungeons and human-rights violations in your backyard. You seem to be bothered by a new building just because it will be a jail, but you are not bothered by the current Tombs at all.

Dartmouth Student Prison Initiative hosts virtual webinar, “The Crisis at Rikers Island: A Call to End Mass Incarceration”

March 1st, 2022|

The Dartmouth

“Co-head of DSPI Esme Lee ’24, who organized the webinar, said that she reached out to The Freedom Agenda –– an advocacy group pursuing decarceration and investments in communities disrupted by punishment –– to see what DSPI could do on campus to advocate for the end to mass incarceration.”

Advocates press on for population reduction at Rikers

February 28th, 2022|

NYN Media

“I was a teenager when I spent 19 months on Rikers Island, when the population was over 21,000. It was a crisis back then. Decades of lack of transparency, decades of lack of accountability contributed to the crisis. And the pandemic exacerbated the crisis. Jail guards not going to work exacerbated the crisis” said Darren Mack, formerly incarcerated activist and organizer at the Freedom Agenda."

Organizers are demanding release for people at Rikers Island after photos reveal gruesome conditions

February 25th, 2022|


“Darren Mack, who is the co-director of Freedom Agenda, the leader of the coalition that forms the Campaign to Close Rikers, spent 19 months at Rikers when he was just 17 years old in 1992... 'Rikers is managed through terror, through brutality,' Mack said. 'The same thing that was plaguing  Rikers Island then is plaguing Rikers Island now.'”

Drug Confiscations in NYC Jails Doubled During Pandemic Visitor Ban

February 10th, 2022|


“Darren Mack, co-director of the Freedom Agenda, a part of the Urban Justice Center, told The City that he felt the numbers show that much of the drugs inside the city's jails were allegedly being funneled in from members of the staff.”

When Visitors Were Banned From Rikers Island, Even More Drugs Showed Up

February 9th, 2022|

The City

“This data confirms what we’ve known all along — it is corrupt DOC staff who keep drugs flowing into Rikers,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda, a jail reform organization. “But instead of swift action to root out this corruption, we’ve seen investigators fired, and discipline that is either absent or takes years to enact.”

City transfers portion of Rikers Island land from DOC, moves closer to Renewable Rikers

February 1st, 2022|


Marco Barrios, who was previously incarcerated on Rikers and now a member of Freedom Agenda, said that this land transfer brings the city one step closer to leaving the “horrific legacy of torture island behind.” “[We’re] moving towards repairing the communities that have been harmed by mass incarceration and environmental racism,” Barrios said.

Advocates call on city to meet hunger striking detainees’ demands

January 14th, 2022|

Queens Daily Eagle

“Darren Mack, the co-director of the Freedom Agenda, said that he worries the city will respond to the hunger strike the way New York State responded to striking incarcerated people at Attica Correctional Facility in 1971, an incident that led to the deaths of over 40 people, including 33 detainees.”

The Bronx Social Justice and Anti-Violence Forums: Featuring Freedom Agenda

January 6th, 2022|


"Host Daren Jaime sits down with the Co-Director of Freedom Agenda, Darren Mack discussing an update on Rikers Island, the work the organization is doing to advocate and defend the human rights of incarcerated people."

Eric Adams’ New Jail Commissioner Pushes Out Acclaimed Head of Investigations

January 4th, 2022|

The City

“It’s concerning that Deputy Commissioner Townsend’s removal was a top goal of COBA and this incoming administration capitulated,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda in the Urban Justice Center.

Eric Adams straddles the line on Rikers closure plan

December 15th, 2021|


Darren Mack, a co-director of Freedom Agenda, said the current crisis at Rikers, with 15 deaths this year in the city jail system, makes moving forward with the plan all the more urgent. “This is something that survivors of Rikers, advocates and allies have fought for and we believe that definitely the next administration should stick to the plan,” he said. “It’s a human rights crisis. What could be more urgent than that?”

Rikers Island Reports 2nd Inmate Death In Less Than A Week

December 15th, 2021|

CBS News

"There was also no surprise,” former inmate Darren Mack said. That’s the reaction Mack had after learning another inmate in less than a week died on Rikers Island. Mack said he spent nearly two years on Rikers back in the ’90s, and the former inmate says the conditions were not great. “I recall, like, walking into solitary confinement, and there was, like, a Plexiglas over one of the cells and the cell Plexiglas was covered from top to bottom with feces,” he said.

Advocates call for decarceration, closing Rikers Island

December 15th, 2021|

Queens Examiner

Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda and a formerly incarcerated activist, has been involved with the initiative to close Rikers Island since 2016. “Every human being should be equal in dignity and rights,” said Mack. “Unfortunately, that is not the case for people who are funneled into New York City’s jail system which is a human rights crisis. Judges and DA’s are sending people to a potential death sentence. “If the Department of Corrections cannot keep people safe and alive, then they should not have people in their custody,” he added.

Rikers Island witnesses 16th death of incarcerated individual this year

December 15th, 2021|


Judges, prosecutors, the Mayor, the Governor, and other elected officials have shown a complete indifference to the lives of incarcerated people, as they send hundreds more New Yorkers each week into the deadly conditions on Rikers and The Boat,” said Darren Mack, a survivor of Rikers Island and co-founder of the Freedom Agenda, which seeks to have all Rikers Island jails closed. “William Brown, Malcolm Boatwright, and fourteen others this year were meted out death sentences by the NYC jail and court system. A system this morally bankrupt, dysfunctional, and neglectful lacks the legitimacy to detain anyone. The only practical and humane solution is immediate decarceration.

Human Rights Day of Action Heads to Queens Court

December 10th, 2021|

Queens Daily Eagle

“Organized by the Urban Justice Center’s Freedom Agenda, more than a dozen activists, public defenders and members of CourtWatch NYC gathered outside to demand a better system on International Human Rights day... “Every human being should be equal in dignity and rights. Unfortunately, that is not the case for people who are funneled into NYC’s jail system which is a human rights crisis,” said Freedom Agenda Co-Director Darren Mack.

Demonstrators gather to remember Rikers inmates who have died in custody, call for action

December 10th, 2021|


Advocates support Mayor de Blasio's decision to close Rikers, with conditions there rapidly deteriorating - it is dangerously overcrowded, filthy, and severely short-staffed. Many at Rikers are still awaiting trial, and are innocent until proven guilty. "They're not just inmates or people that are sitting there because they committed a crime or like I like to say, they were accused of a crime. They haven't had a day in court," said Edwin Santana.

As Staffing Shortage On Rikers Island Remains Big Concern, Vaccine Deadline For NYC Correction Officers Expires

November 30th, 2021|

CBS News

When a correction officer doesn’t come to work, people don’t eat. People miss medical appointments. People are committing suicide. People are dying,” said Brandon Holmes co-director of Freedom Agenda. “Now, this vaccine mandate, yes, can be a tool to make sure that they are held accountable.

As borough based jails progress, crisis continues

November 22nd, 2021|

Queens Daily Eagle

 The degree of civilization in the city can be judged by entering its jail, and it would be fair to say that we are living in a state of barbarism,” said Darren Mack, the co-director of Freedom Agenda. “I urge [the City Council] to move forward with the borough based plan if we want to rid ourselves of a barbaric system.

De Blasio Dropped Suit Against Corrections Officers Union. Hundreds Continue To Skip Work

November 16th, 2021|


"The Mayor has failed to address the fact that thousands of guards are still collecting their paychecks without working, while incarcerated people have been abandoned in de-facto lockdown without adequate food, recreation, medical care, access to courts and more for months,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda, an organization pushing for decarceration. “The guards who are working have also been abandoned by their co-workers who are abusing leave policies, and by COBA, whose leadership seems more concerned with the nearly one-third of their members who aren't working with incarcerated people than the 70% who are putting in overtime to cover for them.”

‘Rescind your deadly order’: Activists blast de Blasio for apparent returns to solitary confinement in NYC jails,

November 8th, 2021|


“This latest controversy comes amidst the hellish conditions at Rikers Island that have left 14 incarcerated individuals dead this year. The Nov. 8 rally outside City Hall with a coalition of activist organizations including #HaltSolitary, the Freedom Agenda, and more took local government to task for the seeming lack of compassion.”

The trouble with the correction union: It’s a cheerleader for mass incarceration

October 22nd, 2021|

NY Daily News

“The prison-industrial complex is and has always been at odds with the labor movement, whose leaders have made it perfectly clear where their loyalties lie: with the victims of mass incarceration, not its facilitators. COBA may use the language of labor, but it is not defending the rights of its workers. It is defending the system of mass incarceration that continues to give them influence.”

‘When did you become God?’ Protesters press Bronx DA Clark to act as Rikers Island death toll hits 14

October 19th, 2021|


“With deaths and life-changing injuries continuing to occur at an alarming rate, the advocate groups consisting of #HaltSolitary Campaign, the Freedom Agenda, and more called for the prison to be decarcerated before the number reaches 15.”

RIKERS RUMBLE: Inhuman conditions persist at Rikers

October 14th, 2021|

NY Amsterdam News

In effect, as protesters take to the streets to close that “hell hole,” the cry of “Rikers equals death” has gained resonance, particularly after Freedom Agenda member Crystal Clarke voiced her demands at City Hall Park earlier this month. “I am here to let the elected officials know that our loved ones are on Rikers Island, and they do not deserve to feel as though they are cast away and out of sight and mind. They are being pushed to their limits mentally and physically every day. If our mayor, governor, judges, and DAs do not decarcerate they will contribute to the demise of hundreds of people.” Clarke herself is the partner of a person incarcerated on Rikers Island.

Stay the course: Rikers Island protesters demand mayoral candidates support jail’s planned closure

October 12th, 2021|


“The next Mayor will inherit the human rights catastrophe on Rikers and The Boat. But they will also inherit a plan to close them led by survivors of Rikers. They will either be the Mayor who implements this plan and erases that stain on NYC once for all; or the only mayor in the history of this City who took office with a plan to close Rikers in place but made a choice to leave it open. We won’t allow that,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda."

Plan to hand off Rikers still a go, DOC says

October 9th, 2021|

Queens Daily Eagle

“We believe more transfers can be made even before the end of the administration,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda in the Urban Justice Center “The Mayor is not listening to the [officials] who call for decarceration and chose to listen to the police commissioner, who is basically lying to the public about the crime surge and connection to bail reform and COVID releases; due to that lack of courage to correct, the mayor is losing the opportunity to transfer buildings and more land to DCAS.”

Advocates focus on mental health for incarcerated on Rikers

October 7th, 2021|

NY Amsterdam News

Peggy Herrera has worked for a major city agency that caters to troubled youth for the past six years. Herrera’s 23-year-old son, who she said would prefer to go by the name “Justin,” was medically diagnosed with anxiety and attention-deficit disorder when he was 6-years-old. Justin also traumatically lost his father at age 7. Herrera said that her son was arrested at 11-years-old by school safety agents because of a bag with brass knuckles in it, and that was the beginning of him being “criminalized” in the system.

Hochul and de Blasio Issue New Rules on Rikers Crisis

September 20th, 2021|

Chelsea News

Mack, who is a survivor of Rikers and a vehement activist in attempting to have the facility shut down, called the mayor’s response an “unacceptable betrayal of his promise to close Rikers and to implement the Renewable Rikers vision,” referring to de Blasio’s “failed approaches” to solving the crisis by expanding use of the jail and the role of the NYPD. Mack also called attention to the issue of judges and District Attorneys being allowed to “make a person’s freedom dependent on their wealth by setting bail amounts that function as ransom.” Partners with North Star Fund to Distribute $5.5 Million to 35+ Black-led Organizations

September 15th, 2021|

PR Newswire and New York-based community foundation, North Star Fund, announced more than 35 Black-led organizations across the United States that will receive grant funding from's $5.5 million Racial Justice Fund... The grant recipients [including the Freedom Agenda of the Urban Justice Center] work on the frontlines of Racial Justice to disrupt anti-black racism and empower communities of color.”

As Conditions at Rikers Reach Crisis Levels, Concerns About Heat Persist

September 13th, 2021|

City Limits

“We’ve had stories of people telling us they’ve had to bend down and put their lips on the ground to suck air from under the door because it’s so hot and humid inside those cells that they’re literally sucking for cold air from the door from any cracks they can find,” said Brandon Holmes, of the Urban Justice Center.

A Rise in Suicides at Rikers Island

September 7th, 2021|


Freedom Agenda & MOCJ Task Force member Marco Barrios: "Most of the people that go to the city jails have a trauma, so they’re being re-traumatized because of the punitive model they have in place right now. And I lived that experience at one point, so I know firsthand about it. As a member of Freedom Agenda, we’ve tried to close Rikers Island to make sure there’s also accountability and oversight, and those things are lacking right now."

Advocates call for Rikers reforms as officers rally

August 17th, 2021|

Queens Daily Eagle

"COBA's leadership has convinced themselves that officers should not be held accountable for failing to report to work or demonstrating callous neglect for incarcerated people while there, and the mayor has shamefully let them act accordingly,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda. “COBA has also taken every opportunity to argue for more incarceration.”

Twenty-Five Year Old Detainee Found Dead At Rikers

August 12th, 2021|


"Brandon's death is tragic but entirely unsurprising,” said Darren Mack, co-director of the jails reform group Freedom Agenda. “There have already been reports of entire housing units completely unstaffed for hours at a time. On Rikers, that means there is no way to get medical attention or anything else you may need.”

Advocates Continue to Press for In-Person Voting at NYC Jails

July 26th, 2021|

City Limits

“To the degree that any access to voting is happening at all in the city jails, it’s because some volunteers or some individual took some initiative,” said Sarita Daftary, co-director of the Freedom Agenda, a project of the Urban Justice Center.

Hundreds of New City Jail Officers for Rikers Put Detainee Advocates on Guard

July 11th, 2021|

The City

Sarita Daftary, co-director of Freedom Agenda, an Urban Justice Center project that advocates for decarceration, argued that the high AWOL rate makes it “harder for [the officers] who do show up for work — and of course, dangerous for the incarcerated people who aren’t getting to their court dates, to visits, to medical, to commissary, aren’t getting mail, and all other kinds of human rights abuses.”

How Rikers Island Became a Vehicle for Justice (Once It Started Shutting Down)

May 3rd, 2021|


In 2016, Pastoressa joined a small but rapidly growing group of advocates, including formerly incarcerated people and their families, in calling for the complete closure of the Rikers Island jail complex. Soon after, she became a leader in the movement to close Rikers, and later one of the founding members of Freedom Agenda, a project of the Urban Justice Center helping to organize the fight to dismantle New York City’s unjust incarceration system

Newly Public Jail Disciplinary Records Reveal Repeat Use-Of-Force Violations With Few Consequences

April 12th, 2021|


“The 50-a data shows that the so-called reforms at DOC is just rhetoric,” said Darren Mack, a co-director of Freedom Agenda at Urban Justice Center. “And it's evidence of what advocates and survivors of Rikers already knew. That the brutality and violence will not be eliminated until there’s a total dismantling of DOC.”

Freedom Agenda Member OP-ED: Come together from opposite sides of the jail bars

April 9th, 2021|

NY Daily News

As an advocate for closing Rikers Island, I encounter a common assumption: that correction officers are our main opposition. But when we look beyond the badges, we see that many officers are people of color from the same communities as those in the jails. Could we, together, envision good jobs that aren’t dependent on mass incarceration?

Gracie Mansion protesters demand Rikers Island reforms, justice for NYC jail prisoners during Human Rights Week march

December 12th, 2020|

The Daily News

“Rikers is a human rights crisis,” said organizer Darren Mack of Freedom Agenda NYC. “We are here today standing with family members of people who had died on Rikers. We are here today with survivors of Rikers Island.”

NYC’s Budget Does Not Make Policing Safer for those with Mental Illness [by Member-Leader Peggy Herrera]

July 8th, 2020|

City Limits

I am the proud mother of a young man who has lots of promise and potential and also struggles with mental health concerns. I have seen over and over again the ways that an inadequate mental health system has failed him, and where law enforcement has stepped in to do a job they should not be doing.

Truly Equipping New York City to End Mass Incarceration and Close Rikers [by Co-Director Brandon Holmes]

December 10th, 2019|

Gotham Gazette

On October 17, the New York City Council held a historic vote on the future of Rikers Island. This vote, and the organizing that influenced the Council to improve upon the mayor’s proposed plan, was passed alongside upwards of $260 million of investments into community-based solutions and resources outside of the justice system.

The Unending Urgency of Closing Rikers [Op-Ed by Co-Director Darren Mack]

July 2nd, 2019|

City Limits

We have already begun to dismantle this system that brutalizes people every day. Due to directly impacted leaders’ advocacy of the past three years, the de Blasio administration lowered the proposed bed count from 5,750 to 4,600 citywide (with capacity for 4,000 people).  The reduction of more than 10,000 beds— will be the most significant decarceration in the history of the United States. This will solidify New York City as the most decarcerated metropolis in the country. 


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