New York’s biggest jail complex, Riker’s Island, has a nickname: “torture island”–where detainee violence, rape, and “pervasive brutality” by guards is the norm, while 85% of its residents haven’t even been convicted of a crime. At a cost of $209,000 per bed, per year the jail’s infrastructure is crumbling. And each year, New York City taxpayers spend millions settling claims of wrongful death and injury behind its bars.
Just Leadership USA, an advocacy organization led by formerly incarcerated individuals, has been working to shut down Rikers once and for all. To amplify their efforts, JLUSA asked ART NOT WAR to mount a pressure campaign on Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had run as a staunch progressive while failing to address this human rights atrocity right in his own backyard. So we wrote and produced a 60 second ad calling out the Mayor for his inaction. We purchased airtime on a local cable news show “Mondays with the Mayor,” where De Blasio was scheduled to appear just before his annual State of the City address. The ad ran all week and was covered widely on social media (including tweets from Russell Simmons, Hill Harper, Judd Apatow and other allies), earning approximately 32 million media impressions. And most significantly, just six weeks after our ad was released, JLUSA claimed a huge victory: Mayor De Blasio signed on to a plan to shut down Rikers in the next 10 years.