Bronx District Attorney-elect Darcel Clark announced her plans to bring stronger accountability and reform to Rikers Island upon taking office.
During her campaign for office, District Attorney-elect Clark released the VISTA plan, outlining her ideas on how to improve accountability, efficiency and responsiveness in the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. While implementing the VISTA plan will be of utmost priority, under District Attorney Clark the office will be specifically focused on providing strong leadership in addressing long lingering issues associated with Rikers Island.
“There’s no sugarcoating it - we face a crisis at Rikers Island and the next Bronx District Attorney must play a lead role in addressing the very real challenges there,” said Clark. “Rikers is part of the Bronx, and if elected, I will use the power of the Bronx District Attorney’s office to bring together all stakeholders to get the reforms we need.”
Following her election on November 3rd, District Attorney-elect Clark has already met with a number of key stakeholders who are like-mindedly focused on bringing meaningful change to Rikers Island. Clark believes collaboration is imperative to begin to make progress.
“No office can do this alone – these are issues that ultimately can only be resolved with input from the Department of Correction, the Board of Corrections, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the City Council, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), the Chief Judge, and the Office of Court Administration, the Department of Investigations’ Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Correction, and NYPD” she continued.
“Everybody has to do their part, but I believe we can find consensus to restore order and improve the safety of all those who are either incarcerated or work on the Island.”
District Attorney Clark’s reforms for Rikers Island will include the following:
- Collaboration, including joint investigative training with the Bronx DA’s Office, the City’s Department of Correction, the Department of Investigations’ Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Correction, and NYPD to actively investigate and prosecute crime at Rikers
- Creation of the Rikers Island Task Force in the Bronx District Attorney’s office that will be specifically trained on Rikers Island procedures and policies to address issues of violence, narcotics trafficking, sexual assaults, mental health issues and other concerns specific to Rikers
- Supporting bail reform for low level, non-violent offenders
- The assignment of an Assistant Bronx District Attorney and other staff to specifically facilitate real time prosecution of Rikers cases and to help eliminate delays caused by transferring inmates to the Bronx Courts for arraignment
- Reduction and the ultimate elimination of the case backlog within the District Attorney’s office and assurance of timely prosecutions, so no one remains on Rikers any longer than appropriate
- Working closely with New York City’s four other District Attorney’s Offices to jointly prosecute underlying inmate offenses and their Rikers Island offenses
- Demanding that our criminal court system allocate appropriate and sufficient resources to the Bronx, including the placement of a judge on Rikers Island to expedite arraignments and other court proceedings related to the prosecution of Rikers cases
- The request for adequate funding from the City Council to ensure the District Attorney has the proper resources to properly investigate and prosecute Rikers caseloads and reduce backlogs
- Bringing together the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Department of Correction, the New York Police Department, the Department of Investigations’ Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Correction, the City Council, COBA, and the Board of Correction to develop effective reforms and proper oversight for Rikers
“The problems at Rikers cannot be allowed to continue. As the Bronx District Attorney, my focus will be on using this office to aggressively pursue all criminal activity in every corner of the Bronx, and that specifically includes Rikers Island,” said Clark. “I will demand and expect that my office will be prepared to achieve real-time prosecution on every case possible, and I look forward to working with all stakeholders to bring safety and the rule of law to Rikers Island.”
A lifelong resident of the Bronx, District Attorney Clark was raised in Soundview Houses and attended Bronx public schools before going to college and law school. Prior to her election as the Bronx District Attorney, she served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx for 13 years before being appointed a Criminal Court Judge by Mayor Giuliani. Elected in the Bronx as a State Supreme Court Justice in 2005, Clark later on was elevated to the Appellate Division by Governor Cuomo, serving in that capacity for three years.