We honor the memory of Andy Henriquez, 19 years old. He begged for medical attention in solitary confinement on Rikers Island. He died there due to neglect in 2013.
From time to time, I have had the honor to stand with the community working to close the jail complex on Rikers Island and replace the jails with smaller justice centers based in four of the New York City boroughs. People directly affected by the Rikers jails led this effort.
Today the New York City Council voted on a proposal. I joined the community for a rally in the time before the vote. Participants were invited to read brief statements honoring individuals who had died on Rikers.
I read the words about Andy Henriquez. He was arrested for participating in a heinous crime. He was held for three years without a trial. He was held in solitary confinement. He complained of pain and called for medical attention as did others held near him.
He needed to be held accountable for his role in that crime. But that would have involved a speedy trial. And it would not have involved dying alone in a cell. Whatever he did, whatever he did not do, as a child of God, he deserved better. So did Mohamed Jollah for whose brutal murder Andy Henriquez was arrested. So do all people.
May today’s New York City Council vote mark steps on the journey to a criminal justice system that emphasizes restoration and rebuilding community.