WITNESS group launches hats, gloves campaign for 5,500 incarcerated at Rikers

Rikers Island, the Bronx DA’s ability to investigate abuse allegations at the complex, has been a major point of attack for Bronx DA candidate Tess Cohen.
(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo)

Winter storms will tear through New York City bringing extreme cold and inches of snow, leaving Witness to Mass Incarceration (WITNESS) gravely concerned that the 5,500 people incarcerated at Rikers Island and across the New York City jail system are freezing.

Those incarcerated do not have the basic, necessary items to stay warm according to WITNESS, a queer, women and formerly incarcerated-led organization whose mission is to center people towards alternatives to mass incarceration. WITNESS Hats and Gloves Campaign has been approved by New York Department of Corrections to provide all 5,500 people incarcerated on Rikers Island and across the NYC jail system with hats and gloves as extreme cold grips the city.

The group is urging the public to donate as little as $10 to provide an incarcerated person with a pair of gloves and a hat. In solidarity, we can raise the $45,000 necessary to provide hats and gloves to each person incarcerated in New York City.

Evie Litwork, founder and executive director of WITNESS, told the Bronx Times that as of Feb. 14, the group had already raised $31,000.

This comes as hundreds of incarcerated people on Rikers Island protest the life-threatening conditions rampant within the facility. The New York Times reports what inmates describe as dangerously cold conditions at Rikers as temperatures have dropped in recent weeks. Research has shown temperatures are anywhere from 10-20 degrees colder inside prisons.

Hundreds of those detained on Rikers Island have organized in protest against the prison’s inadequate — and plainly neglectful — response to the unmitigated spread of COVID-19 across the facility. Those incarcerated on Rikers and in jails across the city are subjected to overcrowded, unsanitary and violent conditions even as severe winter weather hits a city reeling from the omicron variant wave., according to WITNESS.

To donate, visit https://www.witnesstomassincarceration.org/hats-and-gloves. For more information, contact Litwok at 347-304-7227 or [email protected].