Rikers Island

Rikers Island

Infobox_protected_area | name = Rikers Island
ucn_category = V

caption =
location = New York City, USA
nearest_city = New York City
lat_degrees = 40
lat_minutes = 47
lat_seconds = 28
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 73
long_minutes = 52
long_seconds = 58
long_direction = W
area = 413.17 acres (1.672 km²)
established = 1932
visitation_num =
visitation_year =
governing_body = New York City Department of Correction

Rikers Island is one of New York City's large jail facilities [ [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/05/16/earlyshow/bios/main509357.shtml Dr. Emily Senay, M.D., M.P.H.] , CBS News. Accessed July 27, 2007. "In addition to making house calls for homebound patients in Manhattan through Betances Health Unit, Dr. Senay has worked in a variety of clinical settings including Rikers Island, New York City's largest jail, and the Floating Hospital, a non-profit health clinic for underserved families."] , as well as the name of the 413.17 acre (1.672 km²) island on which it sits, in the East River between Queens and the mainland Bronx, adjacent to the runways of LaGuardia Airport. The island itself is part of the borough of the Bronx, though it is included as part of Queens Community Board 1 and has a Queens ZIP code. [ [http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/bytes/cdguide.shtml Tax Block & Tax Lot Base Map Files on CD-ROM] , New York City Department of City Planning. Accessed July 26, 2007. "Similar to the Marble Hill situation is that of Rikers Island. Rikers Island is part of the Borough of The Bronx. However, it is administratively included in Queens Community District 1."] The jail complex, operated by the New York City Department of Correction, has a budget of $860 million a year, a staff of 10,000 officers and 1,500 civilians to control a yearly inmate population of up to 130,000. The official permanent population of the island, as reported by the United States Census Bureau, was 12,780 as of the 2000 census.

The island is named after Abraham Rycken, [ [http://www.astorialic.org/starjournal/1800s/1880may_p.php Daily Star May 1880] Greater Astoria Historical Society. Acecssed July 27, 2007. "His daughter Grietie married Abraham Rycken; it is after this prominent Queens family that Rikers Island is named."] , a Dutch settler who moved to Long Island in 1638 and whose descendants owned Rikers Island until 1884, when it was sold to the city for $180,000 and has been used as a jail ever since. [Barth, Kodi. [http://www.nyc24.org/2003/islands/zone2/rikershistory.html An Overview of Rikers Island: A City of Jails] , NYC24.com. " Named after Abraham Rycken, a Dutch settler who moved to Long Island in 1638 and whose descendants owned Rikers Island till 1884."]

Rikers Island jail

The facility generally holds about 15,000 inmates at a time. [Muske-Dukes, Carol. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/17/AR2007071702011.html "A Prison Tale Suffering From Overpopulation", a review of "Channeling Mark Twain" by Chris Bohjalian] , "The Washington Post", July 18, 2007. Accessed July 27, 2007. "There are usually around 15,000 inmates there."] The daytime population (including staff) can be 20,000 or more.Fact|date=April 2007

The facility, which consists of ten jails, holds local offenders who are awaiting trial and cannot afford or cannot obtain bail, those serving sentences of one year or less, and those temporarily placed there pending transfer to another facility which does not have space.

The only access to the facility is from Queens, over the unmarked 4,200-foot (1.28 km) three-lane Francis Buono Bridge, dedicated on November 22, 1966, by Mayor John Lindsay. ["'Bridge of Hope' to Rikers Island Is Dedicated Here", "The New York Times", November 23, 1966. pg. 41.] Before the bridge was constructed, the only access to the island was by ferry. Transportation is also provided by the Q100 Limited stop bus service, also serving the Riker's Island Parking Lot, the 21st Street-Queensbridge NYCS 63rd IND subway station, and the Queensboro Plaza NYCS Flushing NYCS Astoria subway station at Queensboro Plaza, providing around-the-clock service. There are also privately-operated shuttles that connect the parking lot at the south end to the island. Bus service within the island for visitors visiting inmates is provided by the New York City Department of Correction.

The North Infirmary Command, which used to be called the Rikers Island Infirmary, is used to house inmates requiring extreme protective custody, inmates with special health needs, mentally ill inmates, and inmates undergoing drug detoxification, as well as some regular inmates. The rest of the facilities, all built in the last 67 years, make up this city of jails. Two of these are floating jails. Originally Staten Island ferries, the two floating detention centers are docked off the northern tip of Rikers Island. Each of them has an inmate capacity of 162 and serves as an annex to one of the other jails on the island. There is also the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, a floating barge (described below). New York City's jail system has become something of a small town. There are schools, medical clinics, ball fields, chapels, gyms, drug rehab programs, grocery stores, barbershops, a bakery, a laundromat, a power plant, a track, a tailor shop, a print shop, a bus depot and even a car wash. Rikers Island is the world's largest penal colony. [http://www.nyc24.org/2003/islands/zone2/rikers-index.html]


The island was used as a military training ground for both European American and African American regiments during the Civil War. The first regiment to use the Island was the Ninth New York Infantry, also known as Hawkin's Zouaves, which arrived there on May 15, 1861. Hawkins' Zouaves was followed by the 36th New York State Volunteers on June 23, which was followed by the Anderson Zouaves on July 15, 1861. The Anderson Zouaves were commanded by John Lafayette Riker who was related to the owners of the island. The camp of the Anderson Zouaves was named Camp Astor in compliment to millionaire John Jacob Astor Jr. who provided funding for the army, and who appears to have made a significant contribution to the raising of the Anderson Zouaves in particular, with the Astor ladies being credited with the manufacture of the zouave uniforms worn by the recruits of this regiment. Despite the fact that Riker's Island was subsequently used by numerous Civil War regiments, the name "Camp Astor" was specific to the Anderson Zouaves and did not become a general name for the military encampment on the island.

The island was bought by New York City from the Ryker family in 1884 for $180,000 and was used as a jail farm. [ [http://www.eastrivernyc.org/enatural/riker_p.php Natural Features: Rikers Island] , eastrivernyc.org. Accessed July 26, 2007. "The City purchased Rikers Island in 1884 for $180,000."]

In 1932, the city opened a jail for men on the island to replace its dilapidated jail on Blackwell's Island (now Roosevelt Island). Landfill was added to the island in 1954. It enlarged the area of the island to convert|415|acre|km2, enabling the jail facilities to expand. The original penitentiary building, completed in 1935, is now a maximum security facility called James A. Thomas Center.

During Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's term as mayor of New York, the jail filled to overflowing, and an 800-bed barge was installed on the East River to accommodate the extra inmates. The barge is called the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, or V.C.B.C./ VCBC, and was formerly known as MTF3 (for Maritime Facility #3). VCBC is located at 1 Halleck St, Bronx, NY 10474, at the end of Hunts Point, near the recently relocated Fulton Fish Market.

A drawing by artist Salvador Dalí, done as an apology because he was unable to attend a talk about art for the prisoners at Rikers Island, hung in the inmate dining room from 1965 to 1981, when it was moved to the prison lobby for safekeeping. The drawing was stolen in March 2003 and replaced with a fake; three Correction Officers, and an Assistant Deputy Warden were arrested and charged, and though three later pleaded guilty and one was acquitted, the drawing has not been recovered. [Zielbauer, Paul Von. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A07E3D7153CF937A35753C1A9659C8B63 "Art Too Tempting at Rikers; Plot to Steal a Dalí Was Far From a Masterpiece"] , "The New York Times", October 4, 2003. Accessed April 5, 2008.]

Abuses and injustices

According to statistics from the 1992 book [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0312291582?tag=nigelparrycom Inside Rikers: Stories from the World's Largest Penal Colony] by Jennifer Wynn, fewer than 25% of inmates on Riker's were arrested for any form of violent crime—rather mostly drug offenses—with 80% having a history of substance abuse; with 92% being black or Hispanic, even though these ethnic groups comprise less than 50% of the New York City population; with 25% having been treated for mental illness, making Rikers the U.S.'s largest "mental institution"; and 30% of whom come from the city's population of homeless. Literally one-quarter of the approximately 15,000 resident inmates (the annual turnover is around 130,000 prisoners) face paupers' bails of $500 or less.

CNN reported in 1998 that "Inmates at the Rikers Island jail complex for years have been subjected to impromptu beatings and planned assaults by guards, according to court papers. In the last decade, Rikers inmates have been brutally beaten, some suffering broken bones, ruptured eardrums or severe head injuries, The New York Times reported Sunday. Details of the beatings emerged from court papers, mainly as a result of a recent court settlement that spelled out reforms." Source: [http://www.cnn.com/US/9808/16/prison.beatings/ Rikers Island guards beat inmates for years] CNN, August 16th, 1998.

Ten years later abuses continue to be pervasive despite repeated indictments and convictions of corrections officials, and court orders. In February 2008, jail guard Lloyd Nicholson was indicted after he allegedly used a select group of teenage inmates as enforcers under a regimen he called "the program" as well as allegedly beating inmates himself. Source: [http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0815,rikers-fight-club,404229,2.html Rikers Island Fight Club] by Graham Rayman, Village Voice, April 8th, 2008.

On 4 October 2007, the New York City Department of Corrections conceded that "tens of thousands of nonviolent inmates taken to Rikers Island on misdemeanor charges had been wrongly strip-searched in violation of a 2002 court settlement, and were entitled to payment for damages. As many as 150,000 such inmates have been searched at Rikers Island since 2002, lawyers for the inmates said... The policy was kept in place despite a United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling in 2001 that strip-searches of misdemeanor suspects were illegal, unless officials suspected that they were carrying contraband..."

[Lead lawyer Richard D.] Emery charged in his papers that department officials "repeatedly resorted to lying to cover up deliberate indifference to the continued practice of humiliating detainees by forcing them to strip naked in groups." Source: [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/05/nyregion/05strip.html City to Pay Damages for Strip Searches] by Alan Feuer, 'The New York Times", October 5th, 2007.

"If you think health care in America is bad, you should look at mental health care," says Steve Leifman, who works as a special advisor on criminal justice and mental health for the Florida Supreme Court. More Americans receive mental health treatment in prisons and jails than hospitals or treatment centers. In fact, the country's largest psychiatric facility isn't even a hospital, it's a prison — New York City's Rikers Island, which holds an estimated 3,000 mentally ill inmates at any given time. Fifty years ago, the U.S. had nearly 600,000 state hospital beds for people suffering from mental illness. Today, because of federal and state funding cuts, that number has dwindled to 40,000. When the government began closing state-run hospitals in the 1980s, people suffering from mental illness had nowhere to go. Without proper treatment and care, many ended up in the last place anyone wants to be. "The one institution that can never say no to anybody is jail," Leifman says. "And what's worse, now we've given [the mentally ill] a criminal record." Source: [http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1651002,00.html "De-Criminalizing Mental Illness"] , M.J. Stephey, TIME, 8 August 2007.

In an alleged July 2008 rape case reported by the Village Voice on August 5th, 2008, the alleged victim claimed "that someone entered her cell in the 1,000-bed Rose M. Singer Center while she was asleep, sometime before 6 a.m. on July 3. She says the intruder (or intruders) bound and gagged her with bedsheets and then used a dildo-like object to sexually assault her. Other inmates may have acted as lookouts during the alleged assault. The woman, who was being held on grand-larceny charges for the past three months, was discovered at about 6 a.m. by a guard and a captain who were touring the building. There's no doubt that she had been trussed up: The guard saw her lying on her back on the floor of her cell with bedsheets wrapped around her neck, mouth, and legs. She had also been blindfolded. The incident was reported to central command at 7:30 a.m., and the woman was transported to the Elmhurst Hospital Center. Because she didn't share a cell with anyone, a major question is how the alleged assault happened in the first place. Officials won't talk about the investigation, and there's no word on whether any arrests have been made." Source: [http://villagevoice.com/2008-08-05/news/woman-on-woman-rape-claim-at-rikers/ Woman-on-Woman Rape Claim at Rikers] Village Voice, August 5th, 2008.

The same Village Voice article also lists a roll call of 2008 scandals at Rikers, including the case of guards who allegedly passed accused cop killer Lee Woods pot, cigarettes, and alcohol; the February indictment of corrections officer Lloyd Nicholson who used inmates as "enforcers", and the April 27th suicide of 18-year-old Steven Morales in the high-security close-custody unit.

Cultural references

*In the movie Carlito's Way, Sean Penn's character is involved in a plot to assist in the escape of the New York Italian Mob boss from Riker's Island via boat.
*A fictional prison in the Marvel Comics universe, Ryker's Island is a stronghold for containing both human and superhuman detainees. It is based on the real life location.
**In the first story arc of the New Avengers, the heroes (Spider-Woman, Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Daredevil and Luke Cage) battle to stop a mass break-out at Ryker's orchestrated by Electro.
**The Daredevil (Marvel Comics) storyarc "The Devil in Cell Block D" involves Daredevil's imprisonment in Riker's.
*In the video game "", TK's goal in one mission is to bust Candy out of Rikers.
*In the Marvel video game "The Punisher", Jigsaw is imprisoned at Ryker's Island. The main character, Frank Castle, later infiltrates the prison, which leads to a large shoot-out and riot in which Jigsaw is eventually battled.
*In "Futuramas 4th season episode "Three Hundred Big Boys", Kif is sent to 'Commander Riker's Island', an obvious play on Rikers Island. The name is a reference to the character Commander William Riker, from the TV series ', played by Jonathan Frakes.
*In the Law and Order television franchise, convicts are often sent to Rikers Island for sex crimes and homicides. In many episodes, the detectives visit Rikers to question inmates, although the actual scenes are taped on a set as well as in the now-closed "Queen's House" jail.
*In Stephen Adly Guirgis' play "Jesus Hopped the "A" Train", the character Lucius Jenkins is detained at Riker's Island.
*In a Season 1 episode of "Chappelle's Show", during the sketch "PopCopy", a store clerk (played by Michael Rapaport) references that he doesn't care about his reputation and that he'll go to Riker's for three or four years "just to prove my (his) point".
*In the 2006 theatrical film "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" the character of Antonio (based on a real person) is sent to Riker's Island after he murders a street hood. His friends are told to visit him there, which they never do.
*In 1972 The Family Dogg recorded a song Riker's Island (sometimes credited as Rykers Island) about a man sent to the jail on their second album 'The View From Rowland's Head'. It was also the B side of their single Sweet America.
*The 1980 Jim Carroll Band song "People who Died" mentions Rikers in the verse: "Brian got busted on a narco rap/He beat the rap by rattin' on some bikers/He said, 'Hey, I know it's dangerous, but it sure beats Riker's'/But the next day he got offed by the very same bikers".
*The 1990 Kool G Rap song "Rikers Island" tells of the facility and its notoriety within New York.
*The Sega Saturn video game Three Dirty Dwarves uses Riker's Island as a level, where the dwarves fight off escaping prisoners and prison guards.
*In the book "Monster", Steve Harmon is sent to Rikers Island while he is awaiting trial for a murder charge.
*In the book On The Road, the character Elmer Hassel is mentioned as being on Riker's Island.
*Is often mentioned, and has been visited twice in CBS crime drama
*The video for the Public Enemy song "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," which is about a prison riot, was filmed at Rikers Island.
*Tupac Shakur, who was incarcerated there once, mentions "Rikers Island" in several of his songs. In his song called Old School (recorded before his arrest), he says "A young nigga tryin to stay away from Riker's Isle," and he also addresses the facility's staff at the end of the popular song Picture Me Rollin' (after his release from the facility).
*Junior Reid mentions "Rikers Island" in reference to a prison riot in the Guru song "Mashin' Up Da World" from the album Streetsoul.
*Junior Reid and Poor Righteous Teachers mention "Rikers Island" in their song called "Dreadful Day" which is based on prison life.
*Cocoa Tea and Nardo Ranks have a song called "Rikers Island", based on the institute.
*Criminals in Gargoyles (TV series) were commonly taken to an island prison known as "Riker's Lockup".
*The WWE tag team Cryme Tyme was kayfabe put into Rikers' as an explanation for their absence after their real-life firing and rehiring.
*William S. Burroughs' book, "Junky" makes several references to Riker's Island.
* The group ONYX throws out a "peace to the brothers on Rikers Isle" in the song Slam
*Rapper Method Man dedicates his song "What The Blood Clot" to inmates he knows incarcerated at Rikers Island.
* Mentioned several times on NBC drama TV series Third Watch when sergeant Cruz is charged with murder and sent there.


External links

* [http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DTTable?_bm=y&-show_geoid=Y&-tree_id=4001&-_showChild=Y&-context=dt&-errMsg=&-all_geo_types=N&-mt_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U_P001&-redoLog=false&-transpose=N&-search_map_config=|b=50|l=en|t=4001|zf=0.0|ms=sel_00dec|dw=0.05330623177477046|dh=0.030289650719350046|dt=gov.census.aff.domain.map.EnglishMapExtent|if=gif|cx=-73.88421800202333|cy=40.79177413228427|zl=3|pz=3|bo=318:317:316:314:313:323:319|bl=362:393:358:357:356:355:354|ft=350:349:335:389:388:332:331|fl=381:403:204:380:369:379:368|g=01000US&-PANEL_ID=p_dt_geo_map&-_lang=en&-geo_id=100$10000US360050001009000&-geo_id=100$10000US360050001009001&-CONTEXT=dt&-format=&-search_results=100$10000US360050516009017&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U Rikers Island: Blocks 9000 and 9001, Block Group 9, Census Tract 1, Bronx County, New York] United States Census Bureau
* [http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/html/about/locate_facility.shtml Department of Correction Facilities on Rikers Island]
* [http://www.courttv.com/archive/onair/shows/mugshots/indepth/rikers.html Map of Rikers Island.]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2999430.stm "Guards charged in Dali theft" - (BBC)]
* [http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/html/history.html "History of New York City Department of Corrections"]
* [http://www.cnn.com/US/9808/16/prison.beatings/ "Rikers Island guards beat inmates for years" - (CNN, 1998)]

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