Rikers Island Longitudinal Study

What kinds of support help justice-involved New Yorkers complete their pretrial phrase in the community without missing court dates or committing new offenses?

Closing Rikers Island jail offers the possibility of radically redesigning criminal justice policy in a way that significantly reduces racial and ethnic inequality in New York City. The incarcerated population at Rikers overwhelmingly comprises young Black and Latino men who live in the City’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Rikers Island Longitudinal Study (RILS) will shed light on potential policy interventions that might help justice-involved New Yorkers complete their pretrial phase in the community without missing court dates or committing new offenses. The study and proposed strategies will focus on three populations: 1) those facing a violent felony charge, 2) those at high risk of failing to appear in court, and 3) those frequently incarcerated. The project examines whether high levels of social integration—stable employment, housing, and access to health care—are associated with successful court appearances, desistance from crime, and avoidance of new arrests by individuals across all three groups. The sample will include 700 men and women facing new criminal charges in the five boroughs of New York City. Estimates suggest that nearly 90% will be Black or Latino and most will come from poor families. Approximately half of this sample will include youth ages 18-25. The mixed-methods longitudinal project will survey all participants at two time points; interview a subset of 150 at five time points; and gather ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data from the high risk group, allowing for integrated analysis of the links between material hardship, social integration, and criminal justice involvement. The team will also analyze 10 years of court data to develop a statistical portrait of jail population dynamics. Data will be analyzed rapidly and in real time in order to inform the ongoing efforts of the Mayor’s Justice Implementation Task Force to close the Rikers Island jail complex. The Foundation will be joined by other funders in supporting this project.

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