An investigation has revealed that Rikers, the world’s most dangerous prison in the heart of New York, reaches levels of unsustainable chaos after the pandemic
The research, conducted by The New York Times, He speaks of detainees who took over, allegedly overseeing various segments of the prison, and guards who refused to come forward or implement disciplinary policies.
Founded in 1932 as a “temporary detention” facility, Rikers Jail in New York State is ranked by civil rights advocates as one of the most dangerous in the world.
40% of prisoners suffer from mental problems, which is why this space is considered an “accelerator of human misery”. The problems were compounded by the pandemic with the increase in deaths of prisoners in custody. In February 2021, state lawmakers recommended its closure, but that process has not yet started.
Rafa Mingorance, author of the YouTube channel New York Live Newspaper, details in this video the situation of printers on Rikers Island.
Text by Rafa Mingorance
In New York there are not only skyscrapers. There is also one of the most dangerous prisons in the world there. It is located on Rikers Island, a piece of land that rises between the counties of Queens and the Bronx. They say going through there is worse than putting yourself in a torture chamber.
Since last December, 11 prisoners have died and 5 have committed suicide
Proof of this is that, since last December, 11 prisoners have died and 5 have committed suicide. The situation is so serious that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to transfer 230 female and transsexual prisoners to two state prisons located 40 miles north of the city. Big Apple. This prevents more deaths from occurring. But why was this degree of violence reached?
First key to the problem: the large number of prisoners in New York State. It is estimated that there are more than 5,700 inmates distributed in its different prison units. However, most of them are located within the eight buildings of the Rikers Island complex. Many await trial dates before the pandemic and remain locked in unsanitary cells.
Rikers “is a weapons factory” for inmates
As early as 1970, several court documents warned of the inhumane conditions of the prison. And in 2015, a new report warned that cell doors closed poorly and old pipes and metal radiators could break and nick like razor blades. This same 2015 report stated that Rikers “is a weapons factory” for inmates. If this is added to the fact that prisoners do not have medical or psychiatric care, it is easy to understand that there are outbreaks of violence.
With the transfer of women and transsexuals, they want to alleviate the problem a little, but this is an insufficient measure. For this reason, as early as last September, 143 people detained for lesser sentences and serving a year or less in prison were sent to smaller prisons.
Also, a new law known as Less is more to act. What exactly does it consist of? This law allows for the release of people who did not appear before the probation officer or who did not pass alcohol or drug tests. For this type of offense, New York was imprisoning nearly three times as many people as the rest of the United States.
There were times when a third of the 8,000 guards did not show up for work.
Second key to the problem: the high absenteeism of Rikers employees. There were times when a third of the 8,000 guards did not show up for work. This situation forced the rest of the colleagues to work twice or even triple the workdays that could last more than 24 hours. At present, absenteeism is about a quarter of the workforce. According to the New York Times, many employees are convinced that their work is useless.
In fact, one of them confessed, anonymously, that he had stopped confiscating weapons for fear of being attacked by prisoners. Let’s not forget that, in 2021, there were twice as many stabbings at Rikers Penitentiary than last year, and if there are problems with the prisoners, the staff are always inferior in number and nobody guarantees them the immediate support of their colleagues.
Third key to the problem at Rikers: perhaps the most surprising point. There are parts of the penitentiary complex that are administered by the prisoners themselves. As the records show, detainees decide who can enter and leave certain parts of the prison. There are restricted-access areas where even inmates come in to sleep and smoke marijuana. They also answer the phone in the employee’s place and steal the keys of colleagues who have committed violent acts. Last summer, an inmate got on a bus and threw him against the prison wall. Nobody stopped him. And another inmate stole an officer’s keys and slit his throat. Unfortunately, this is not a movie or a television series. These are real situations that reveal the deficiencies of the New York prison system.
The Rikers Center opened in the 1930s on an island that, until then, had been used as a New York City landfill. Throughout its history, violent episodes related to cases of depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are frequent.
Rikers has grown to have more mental patients than the 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined. And why is such a center still open in the Big Apple? In recent years, a great deal of political consensus has been generated on the need to close such a sinister prison, but it remains open there.
Defendants who pay cash bail can wait at home for the trial date. Instead, people without financial resources have no choice but to enter one of the most dangerous prisons in the world. This unfair situation hits the African-American community the hardest. Rikers’ arrest reveals, once again, how some social inequalities perpetuate themselves decade after decade to forever harm them.
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