How Violent is Rikers Island?
Published May 20, 2022
Rikers Jail in New York State, founded in 1932 as a temporary detention facility, is considered by civil rights groups to be one of the most dangerous jails globally. Located on Rikers Island, between Queens and Bronx counties, they believe that being imprisoned in Rikers Island jail is worse than entering a torture chamber.
About 40% of inmates have mental health issues, which makes this place an accelerator of human misery. The pandemic worsened the concerns, leading to an increase in the number of prisoners who died in custody. In February of 2021, state lawmakers suggested its closure, but no measure has yet been taken.
Inside Rikers: Dysfunction, Detainees in Control, and Lawlessness
When it comes to disgrace, the island jail complex in New York City has it all: staff brutality, inmate violence, rape, maltreatment of adolescents and the mentally ill, and one of the worst rates of solitary confinement in the country. Throughout Rikers Island’s history, violent incidents associated with depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia have occurred frequently. Rikers Island, which is home to different jails, has been the subject of a number of lawsuits and many exposés.
Yet, the East River island remains a dangerous and depressing place for the 12,000 or more detained men, women, and children on any given day. The majority of which are pretrial defendants unable to make bail and non-violent offenders with sentences that are too short of transferring them upstate.
Eleven inmates died, and five committed suicide inside Rikers Island in December 2021. Due to the situation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has chosen to send 230 female and transsexual inmates to two state prisons 40 miles north of the city. This prevents other fatalities.
Primary Cause of Rikers Island Violence
New York State’s large jail population is the primary cause of the problem. More than 5,700 prisoners are believed to be housed in various prison units. However, most of them are placed within the eight Rikers Island facilities. In addition, many are still being held in unsanitary cells while they wait for their trials to begin before the outbreak of the pandemic.
High employee absenteeism at Rikers is the second cause of the problem. There were instances in which a third of the approximately 8,000 guards did not report for duty. This situation caused the remaining guards to work double or even triple their workdays which may exceed 24 hours. Approximately one-fourth of the workforce is absent at present. In addition, a large number of employees believe their efforts are useless.
One employee admitted that he had already stopped confiscating weapons out of fear of being assaulted by prisoners. The stabbings at Rikers Penitentiary doubled in 2021 compared to the previous year. If there are issues with the inmates, the staff is always outnumbered, and no one can guarantee them the immediate assistance of their colleagues.
The third and possibly most alarming problem of Rikers Island violence is there are areas of the penitentiary that the prisoners themselves control. According to the records, inmates determine who can enter and exit certain areas of the prison. In addition, there are some restricted-access areas where prisoners sleep and smoke marijuana.
Jail Time Should At Least Be Safe
Serving time in jail is not intended to be comfortable. It is also not intended to include being raped by fellow inmates or staff, assaulted by guards for the slightest reason, driven insane by prolonged solitary confinement, or death by medical neglect.
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About The Author
Krizzia Paolyn is an SEO Specialist with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Before launching a career in SEO, she started as a content writer for various digital magazines and renowned publications. It has always been her passion to share her voice, and at the same time, to encourage other people to speak up.