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Retired judge puts together committee to reform Rikers Island

Retired Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman,

Retired Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, pictured holding a public hearing on civil legal services on Sept. 29, 2015, now heads the panel looking into Rikers Island reforms. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

The former judge heading the effort to close or reform the violence-plagued Rikers Island jail on Thursday announced a team of 26 experts to help him tackle the yearlong task.

“Rikers is clearly a symbol of everything that is wrong with the criminal justice system,” Jonathan Lippman, retired Chief Judge of the State Court of Appeals, said in a call with reporters. “The question is what do you do about it.”

The panel, called the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, has representatives from the academic, legal, economic and nonprofit sectors.

It includes Kathryn Wylde of the pro-business Partnership for New York City, Richard M. Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission and Glenn E. Martin, a former inmate who leads the reform group JustLeadershipUSA.

It will take input from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, the City Council and the city’s district attorneys.

Lippman said he will stay in regular touch with the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, which is not on the panel.

The union’s president, Norman Seabrook, said in a statement he wished his group was officially invited to the table.

“Reform has to be a two-way conversation and we’re not sure if this panel achieves that,” he said.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who appointed Lippman to lead the commission, said the reforms “have the potential to drastically improve the lives of thousands of New Yorkers, mostly young minorities.”

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