BxD Testifies Before City Council at Hearing on Progress in Closing Rikers Island

On December 4, 2017, Alice Fontier, Managing Director of The Bronx Defenders’ Criminal Defense Practice presented written and oral testimony before the New York City Council Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services at the Hearing on Progress in Closing Rikers Island. In her testimony, Alice highlighted the Administration’s misguided focus on technocratic fixes to close Rikers and how relying on data will only worsen existing inequalities.

Alice shared the story of our client Selmin Feratovic, who was in Rikers for almost seven months and struggled with heroin dependency. Mr. Feratovic was charged with a violent felony, which meant he did not qualify for the Administration’s flagship diversion program. As a result, he died in his cell after overdosing on fentanyl.

“Instead of receiving the treatment he needed, Selmin went to Rikers. Rote reliance on categorizations of offenses and reliance on cold data, instead of examining his personal needs resulted in his death.”

Since Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Council agree that Rikers Island cannot close without addressing violent felony offenses, Alice implored them to radically rethink how people charged with violent crimes are treated.

“We urge the Administration and the Council to encourage, create, and support new alternatives to detention for people charged with violent crimes. We cannot continue to exclude people charged with violent crimes from these programs if we truly want to close Rikers.”

Read the full testimony here.