Letter to the New York Daily News from The Legal Aid Society in New York and JustLeadershipUSA
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2016

We write in reference to the (New York Daily News) article of October 28 "Jailbirds granted absentee ballots as they await trial under new City Council bill." Contrary to the tone of your article, the distribution of absentee ballots to innocent people who are eligible to vote is what we should be doing in one of the most progressive cities in the US, especially when the law entitles them to have access to the polls.

These "jailbirds", as you refer to them, are our neighbors, friends and family who are subjected to the brutal and inhumane conditions of Rikers Island, much of which has been reported by your own publication. Over 80% of the population in our City jails are detainees and are innocent until proven guilty and almost all of these people are black and brown. The reach of the US Constitution does not end at the bridge to Rikers. In addition, many are there simply because they can't afford to post bail. Those who can afford to do so are at home where they are welcomed at the ballot box.

That everyone living on Rikers Island should retain a voice in the democratic process should be welcomed by a society desperately seeking a solution to suffering caused by mass incarceration. Those harmed by the criminal justice system's failings are exactly the people we must turn to now for help solving this crisis. As a partner in the #CLOSErikers campaign, we know that that those closest to the problem are closest to the solution. Your paper should be invested in upholding our democracy and more thoughtful in the way you describe our fellow New Yorkers.