Lots and lots of horrifying, gruesome stories has been written, told and heard about this tiny Island which is called the Rikers Island. This research was executed to learn about the ins and outs of this place.
This is a 400-acre Island floating between Queens and The Bronx, located in the East River across from the LaGuardia Airport. In the early 17th century, this island originally belonged to a Dutch immigrant named Abraham Riker. Abraham’s descendant Richard Riker later inherited the island in 1800’s.
Photo Credit: Museum of the City of New York
Richard Riker was a politician and an American Lawyer from New York. According to Historians, he was known for violating the Fugitive Slaves Act -which was formed to track down the runaway slaves from Northern states and eventually return them to their owners in South. Richard Riker would misuse this Act to capture even free Black men, women and children from the streets of New York City and send them back to slavery without providing the “accused” a chance to testify themselves as actually free. On a important note, Riker genuinely endorsed slavery and this correctional facility that was built to supposedly amend people was still under Riker’s name by default.
Photo Credit: New York Post
In 1884, the city purchased the island for $180,000 from the Riker family’s last heir. Then, for the next 30 years it remains vacant until 1920’s when the city decided to build a bigger jail for the growing number of prisoners. Rikers Island officially opened in 1932 when inmates started to transfer from other prisons.
Photo Credit: Seth Wenig
Rikers Island Correction Facility is the primary jail complex of New York City. It consists of 10 jails that can hold more than 15,000 prisoners at once. There are separate jails for males, females and adolescents from the age range of 16-18. There are 2 hospital units for the inmates requiring psychiatric or medical treatment. According to New York Times, nearly 85 percent of inmates are not yet found guilty of a crime. They’re on pretrial either held on a bail or custody. Majority of prisoners are Latinos and African-Americans from poor neighborhoods in New York.
Photo Credit: World Socialist Web Site
The island has many popular names such as “world’s worst,” “hellhole,” “worst place on Earth,” “living hell” etc. All sorts of violence has been reported here from officers’ brutality, to misuse of power, gang fights and demise of weaker inmates. Apparently, badges seem to provide these officers extra rights over inmates. There’s a secret practice inside the prison called “the program” a society run by the correctional officers. Village Voice newspaper states that, “the program” refers to the beating and extortion of weaker inmates by the tougher inmates, enabled by the officers who tend to look away when such things occur. They don’t get involved to put off the fight or save anyone for the sake of sustaining orders in the facility. Violence has become a daily routine for the inmates of Rikers island.
Photo Credit: Prison Connect
For the slightest mistake, guards misuse lethal, unlawful forces to punish inmates and instill fear in them. Many prisoners are put into the solitary confinement which is also known as “the box” that drives them insane. It isolates the inmate from making any human contact that leads to paranoia and psychotic behavior. This confinement can last up to a month or more. There’s absolutely nothing to do in this box and it never did good to any inmates rather made their conditions worse.
Rikers is a sadistic place for inmates who are nonviolent stuck with short sentences or on pretrial who can’t make bails. New York Post have confirmed that many of these prisoners are Blacks, Latinos and African Americans who have petty offenses such as traffic violation, misdemeanor, vandalism, etc, are stuck because they can’t afford bail. Most of these inmates come from low income families who doesn’t have the money to get a bail which leads to a lengthy wait for trial, eventually destroying the mental and physical state of these inmates. Basically, the price between freedom and imprisonment is about $5,000 or less.
Photo Credit: NY Daily News
Many Inmates have died in Rikers Island due to medical negligence. Supposedly, every inmates in specialized unit should be seen by a clinician once a day, but it doesn’t happen that way. Medical staff would claim either they’re very busy or there wasn’t an officer available to escort resilient inmates. However, inside sources says otherwise. They have confirmed that many of these medical staff are afraid to go near and treat these inmates. One of the medical staff told the Daily News, “it’s scary as hell. These inmates are harmful and potentially unsafe.” Not getting the treatment who needs it the most only increases the chance for more brutal act or even worse, death.
On June 22, 2017, New York City Mayor De Blasio has pledged to shut down the problematic jail complex in Rikers Island. He said in a statement, “it will not be easy and will take at least a decade.” It has now become a moral obligation to stop mass incarceration in such a place as Rikers Island.