“The Case For Shutting Down New York City’s Rikers Island Jail”
We’ve discussed issues at New York’s Rikers Island facility before, documenting the significant number of violent incidents and violations of inmates’ constitutional rights at the facility, which investigators have documented and some legislators have cited as reasons to close the facility within the next 10 years.
Now on a mission to reform New York’s prison system, Akeem Browder—brother of Kalief Browder, who was wrongfully sent to Rikers and spent three years imprisoned there awaiting a trial that never came, including 18 months in solitary confinement and significant abuse from officers for allegedly stealing a book bag—is on a mission to shut it down, and spoke out recently in a vox.com article.
Sitting In Rikers Until Proven Guilty?
The issue of taxpayers paying to jail people who are presumed innocent until proven guilty is a contentious one, as is primarily targeting brown and black communities for frivolous, low-level violations. Most of the people who are in Rikers are there on re-offenses; meaning technically violations, such as missed curfews or parole violations.
Rikers is infamous for numerous claims of inhumane treatment of inmates, including routine beatings and excessive use of solitary confinement. As a result, New York has faced multiple civil rights lawsuits related to Rikers Island, including one filed and settled three years ago by a group of prisoners who were allegedly detained without food, water, or access to bathrooms. After complaining, these prisoners were allegedly beaten and doused with pepper spray by corrections officers, sustaining bruises, cuts, and other injuries.
Mental Health Services & Accountability for Officers
Another serious issue is the lack of mental health services provided to prisoners, particularly those who, like Kalief, are released back into society after undergoing solitary confinement, which can be permanently and psychologically damaging. And perhaps an even bigger issue than needing new laws to reduce penalties is the need to hold officers accountable when they don’t follow the laws already established to protect citizens.
New correctional standards only come from case law – law resulting from court decisions made in inmate litigation. This is what brings about new correctional policies, procedures, and standards, which includes training on inmate rights and officers’ duties. Still, the United States is the only democracy that has no independent authority to monitor prison conditions and enforce minimal standards of health and safety. Overcrowding, sexual abuse, violence, and other conditions pose serious risks to prisoner health and safety.
New York Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact the office of Phillip J. Murphy immediately to receive the very best in criminal defense. We’ve been serving New York clients for more than 25 years and helping ensure that their civil rights are protected.