In Danger on Rikers Island

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz sheds light on the problems at the City jail complex on Rikers Island, including prisoner abuse and the problems corrections officers face in dealing with a smaller population, but one with a higher component of the mentally ill.


Michael Schwirtz

Comments [9]

Dibee from The Bowels of New Jersey

TO Elaine Levin: your response would be meaningful if it was on topic. This piece is not about behavior modification for mentally disabled people. It is about the horrific abuse such people face in prison and in jail (and psychiatric wards and mental hospitals--a different but related issue), specifically Riker's Island, but generally all American prisons and jails, flat statement no reservation, no empirical study necessary, truth is truth, whether John from Office likes it or not, and whether you or anyone else personally wants to believe it or not.

Sep. 11 2014 09:21 PM
Elaine Levin from NYC, NY

I worked in the NYC public school system for 21 years. District 75 is a city-wide district that serves special needs students of all ages, often until age 21. The population I worked with was considered developmentally disabled, that is, IQ of 70 and below. Many students were multiply handicapped and along with developmental disability showed emotional disability, autism etc. We, the staff, were always counseled to be respectful and look for the student's strengths, and to always remember that retarded does not mean stupid. This was demonstrated often by students with limited academic skills who were highly social and astute, who had common sense and were eager to learn what they could. Some of the students are extremely volatile and would lash out physically. My point is that individuals with special needs who need support often have very clear notions of right and wrong and should not be exempted from consequences because they are "special". If one is given the idea that he or she is regular and is entitled to complete freedom, then that person needs to be held responsible for his actions. Most of my students knew very well that they were getting preferential treatment, but when clear consequences were outlined and reinforced, often they learned to modify anti-social behavior.

Mar. 27 2014 11:29 AM
David Willinger from Manhattan

If I were the Commissioner of Correctional Facilities - and we have a new one! -- I would have myself "arrested" and go through everything that a newly arrested person goes through. I would experience the single cup of water passed around to various inmates, I'd find out what happened if I requested a shower and soap, I'd find out first hand what it is like to be put in a pen with mentally ill criminals, etc.

I would also have myself sent up with a dossier of a mentally ill criminal and behave accordingly. I would find out what it means to be put in the facilities and receive the treatment our society has fashioned for these people.

At the end of my masquerade incarceration, I'm sure I would have many good ideas for different policies for every phase of incarceration in NYC, including the inhuman, degrading treatment of VISITORS to incarcerated individuals (which I have experienced first hand).

The whole thing should be gone over with a fine-tooth comb and revised!!!!

It's a human-designed medieval cesspool. Does the DeBlasio Administration want their name to be on this outrage?

Mar. 27 2014 11:19 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

When you have an institution that caters to poor people, many minority, is anyone shocked about the conditions?

Mar. 27 2014 11:18 AM
DuchessofNYC from NYC

Side issue, but why is there a "practice" of giving inmates soap balls? Whether watered down or not, this is toxic material that could harm someone or be used to harm others...

So why are the inmates responsible for fixing the plumbing?

The story just begs more questions. Are people sitting around with raw sewage in their cells?

Mar. 27 2014 11:09 AM
AS from Brooklyn

A lawyer friend has told me that in Rikers they treat trans-gender people that come in as if they are mental health patients, they have no special holding area for that group if one was needed they are sent to the area with the mentally ill patients.

Mar. 27 2014 11:08 AM
Amy from Manhattan

We heard that the use of solitary confinement went up during Mayor Bloomberg's administration, but who actually made the decisions that led to this?

Mar. 27 2014 11:08 AM
Barb from Manhattan

Our society's failure to care for our mentally ill is one of the greatest obscenities promulgated by the GOP's slavish adherence to the "free market" and "debt reduction."

If we were willing to spend the money (money we have in ample amounts, were we to tax those who can best afford it), we would have:

(1) available to all, universal health care including mental health care, starting in the earliest grades in school;

(2) humane facilities for long-term in-patient care for mentally ill people who need that type of care;

(3) community group homes for those mentally ill people who can succeed in that type of environment;

(4) humane mental health facilities within our prisons; and

(5) nutritionally high-quality food (whole foods rather than highly-processed junk food with no or little nutritional value) available and affordable (i.e., subsidized) for all Americans in need throughout their lives but especially in the first 20 years of life.

Mar. 27 2014 11:08 AM
john from office

Here we go, Brian loves to open the phone lines to people who make accusations that may or may not be true. just say what you want, without Brian questioning the caller.

I have been to Rikers, it is well run. There are problems, but any jail would have issues.

Mar. 27 2014 11:05 AM

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