Rikers Island, the largest jail in the country notorious for violence within its walls and described by some as “the worst place on Earth,” will be closed, city leaders announced Friday.
“It will take many years. It will take many tough decisions along the way, but it will happen,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The mayor said he and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, an outspoken proponent of closing the jail, have agreed on a 10-year timeline to shut down the facility.
As of 2016, Rikers’ population was its lowest to date, with just over 10,000 inmates being held at the 85-year-old jail complex where individuals are held on charges as they wait for a trial.
Still, despite record-low population, violence continued to climb. In 2015, there were 9,424 assaults at the jail, the highest in five years. In 2016, there were nearly 12,000 instances of violence.
The closing was primarily prompted by the memory of Kalief Browder, who at 16 was arrested and held for three years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime. His tragic story was highlighted in a Spike TV seven part series, which is executive produced by Sean “Jay-Z” Carter. Browder spent more than 800 days in solitary confinment, often thrown into violent fights with correction officers and other inmates which were caught on camera. He died by suicide at age 22.
“The death of Kalief Browder was a wake-up call to this city,” de Blasio said. “The No. 1 reason we lost Kalief Browder was because he was held in solitary confinement … and that doesn’t exist anymore” for young inmates.
As of Friday, there are 9,500 individuals in custody in city jails. That number must be reduced to 5,000 before Rikers can be closed, de Blasio said.
“Rikers Island is an example and an expression of a major national problem. the mass incarceration crisis did not begin in New York City, but it will end here,” the mayor said.
“We are going to end the era of mass incarceration by making this important change.”
The next step is to determine how the city can hold thousands of inmates without the use of Rikers, de Blasio said. A report on the jail’s future by a panel commissioned by Mark-Viverito will be revealed on Sunday.
While updating a Caring Bridge web page two days after my first child was born, the spiritual words I wrote were simple.
It is well with my soul.
Born five weeks premature, Luke was taken from the delivery room in a reserved panic to the NICU. In his first two weeks of life, his motionless body animated in my mind a myriad of thoughts. Thoughts filled with fear and utter devastating grief. Thoughts like, “Will he be able to do anything for himself?” Or, “Will he even live?”
Thirty-two days later, along with around-the-clock care and prayer, Luke was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder with many obstacles: low muscle tone, cognitive delays, and immensely low metabolism resulting in extreme weight gain to name a few. To make matters worse, the biggest oddity of the disease is an insensible hunger that is never satisfied.
In the diagnosis, here’s what I heard: “You are now a special needs father.” Under the weight of that moment, I concluded all was not well with my soul.
Covered in Shadows
There are times in life when the shadows where Peter wept become the very same shadows where we weep. Those shadows are filled with denial, fear, anger, and the abandonment of desire to relate with God. Having received Luke’s diagnosis, I was devastated. Thoughts raced and anger raged, How could this be? God, do you care? I have always consulted you — always! We waited ten years before we had our first child. We did it right, and this is what we get?
And more than any other pain, I feared what Luke would endure. What kind of life will he have?
In the midst of my palpable anger, there was a real awareness of how we were supposed to feel and what we were supposed to say. We knew God promised to be with us always, yet in those days, that reality felt distant and remote. I experienced the throes of a battle inside of me between the gentle reminders of the Holy Spirit and the sinful nature of my heart toward God.
Sin Not in Your Anger
God gave me the strength to endure this grief, but the process was lonely and scary. Hidden sins of my heart were exposed. One “wants” to be okay with the diagnosis, but when your god of comfort has crumbled under the weight of a near-lifeless body cradled in your arms, it feels as if all of life crumbles, too.
Yet in God’s gracious leading, he made my suffering an easel which held up the canvas of my heart. In that suffering, God painted a fresh vision of himself for me and in me.
This is what I wish someone had told me then. In all our suffering, we have two alternatives: we can cry in sinful disdain over the work that God is doing in and through us, or we can lament deeply with hope in the joy that is set before us. The weeping itself is not the issue — that is probably the most God-glorifying response. But if our weeping comes simply from angered pride, or the shattered shards of our sin nature, we’ve moved away from lamenting the way things are to resenting that things are not the way we wanted them to be.
Anger directed at God is not lament, it is a temper tantrum — plain and simple outrage does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). In the words of John Piper, “Anger at God is not godly lament.” No, it’s not. “The godly lament of Lamentations says, ‘You have driven your arrows into my breast’ (Lamentations 3:13). Godly lament says, ‘You have filled my mouth with gravel’ (Lamentations 3:16). Godly lament says, ‘You have covered me with shadows.’ Nevertheless, godly lament always says, ‘To you, O God, I look for my deliverance. To you alone I look for my hope. You alone are my portion.’”
Trust Beyond the Tears
Three times in Scripture Jesus weeps or laments (John 11:35; Luke 19:41; Hebrews 5:7).
“Our Lord’s lament gives us an insight into the great tenderness of his character,” said Charles Spurgeon, “his hearty desires for our good.”
This “good” that Spurgeon mentions is God’s commitment to conform us into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). God refuses to leave us merely to tears, but rather leads us by example to ultimately trust him. That is faith! Faith is the only way to please God, which enables every experience of suffering and lament to be glorifying to him.
Broken and Restored in Holiness
The author of Hebrews tells us Christ’s cries were heard because of his reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7). Much to my shame, my cries were often irreverent defiance, but God’s faithfulness opened my eyes to see my need for lament. I was broken.
The great thing about being broken is that if God is the Maker, he always puts us back together in a way that looks more like Christ than before. In the process, painful though it was, I saw he also had a son with special needs: me.
Like Luke, I have a syndrome — one which requires utter dependence on God. I, too, have been diagnosed with an ailment that, unless he intervenes, will lead to destruction and even death. But the law of sin and death no longer makes me its slave. Seeing our special needs, God gave his Son. All of the things I feared Luke would have to face, Christ, through the cross, has already faced for me.
Lord, Lead Me to Lament
When the hollow caverns of despair are begging you to plunge in, resist! When all you can do is stand, then stand! Stand on the promises of a God who is acquainted with your grief (Isaiah 53:3). Instead of falling into despair, fall into his arms.
Cry. Lament to God. Say to him: I don’t understand, but I am committed to trusting the rock that is higher and wiser than I (Psalm 61:2). In lament, we seek greater dependence on God, a greater vision of his glory — and therefore a deeper and greater joy than we could otherwise receive.
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In celebration of April Fools’ Day, Google has made it so that you can play Ms. Pac-Man on Google Maps, allowing you to get your game on utilizing real-world maps as the playing field.
All you have to do is click the Ms. Pac-Man button on the right side of the screen, then Google Maps will load a random area filled with dotted streets. As is customary, you must in turn navigate Ms. Pac-Man while avoiding ghosts. Your ultimate goal is to clear the map by eating all of the pellets.
When playing on your mobile device, simply swipe the screen in the direction you want to go.
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Letting The Freedom Of Truth Uncover The Value Of Life