Three Rikers Guards Indicted for Smuggling Cocaine and Oxycodone Into the Jail

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Photo by Flickr user Matt Green
The correctional officer-jail inmate relationship is often a fraught one, rife with resentment, misunderstandings and violence. But sometimes, just sometimes, the two groups can put aside their differences and work together. That's the silver lining we can take from the news that two current Rikers COs, Steven Dominguez and Divine Rahming, have been charged with smuggling cocaine and oxycodone into the prison with the help of an inmate and his girlfriend. Another former Rikers guard, Deleon Gifth, who resigned earlier this year, was arrested Monday on charges that he was paid $500 to deliver what he thought was oxycodone to an inmate back in February.

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Cecily McMillan, Fresh out of Rikers Island: "The 99% Is Stronger Than Ever"

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Photo by Anna Merlan
McMillan reads her statement in front of the Rikers entrance.
At 5 o'clock this morning, graduate student and Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan was awakened by a guard in her bunk at Rikers, where she's spent a little more than two months after being convicted of assault on a police officer. McMillan had expected to be released today, but she anticipated going through the usual procedure: visiting the social services office around 7:30 a.m. with a group of other women also being let out that day, receiving her property back, and meeting her friends at the gates of the jail.

Instead, McMillan says she was taken to an unmarked van by a cadre of police officers.

"I don't want to go with you," she later told her friend Lucy Parks she said to them. "You're not telling me where you're taking me." She feared she was being set up.

Eventually, an officer told her she was being released. She was taken to the Queensboro Plaza, where she says she was "dumped" unceremoniously, her arms full of her property. She had no keys, money, or phone. The officers left her with a Metro Card and drove away.

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Occupy Protester Cecily McMillan on Rikers: "In Some Ways, I'm Treated Better Than Anyone Else In Here, Which is Horrifying"

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Photo by Anna Merlan
McMillan with her lead attorney, Martin Stolar, during her trial.
After serving a little less than two months in jail, Occupy Wall Street protester and graduate student Cecily McMillan will be released from Rikers Island on Wednesday, July 2. As you might recall, the 25-year-old was found guilty in May of assaulting a police officer during a 2012 protest. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years probation, with time off for the good behavior and time served. It seems safe to say that both McMillan and the city's Department of Correction will be happy to see her off the island, where, true to form, she's been protesting and organizing almost since the moment she arrived.

Rikers has been in an uproar lately, after two officers and 20 inmates were arrested as part of a corruption sweep. But none of them were in the Rose M. Singer Center, the jail unit where women are kept. McMillan and her fellow inmates didn't know about the arrests until relatively recently. The regular paper for the inmates is the Daily News; when they ran a cover story about the arrests last week, the paper arrived with the front cover torn off.

In a recent phone call, McMillan said her time at Rikers has been curious, a mix of special treatment that no other inmates receive and weird restrictions that seem tailor-made just for her.

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At Rikers Island Awaiting Sentencing, Cecily McMillan Says, "I've Never Felt So Loved Before"

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Photo by Zach Roberts
Cecily McMillan, the night of her arrest.
"My lawyer has told me to expect two years," Cecily McMillan said yesterday from the visitation room at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island, where women in New York awaiting trial or sentencing are held. The 25-year-old wore an extra-large grey jumpsuit that dwarfed her frame, prison-issued sandals and horn-rim glasses. She looked exhausted but sounded steady, if not exactly thrilled about the prospect of going to prison.

"Two years is nothing compared to what other people in here deal with," she added.

On May 5, McMillan, a 25-year-old graduate student and Occupy Wall Street activist was found guilty of assaulting a police officer during a March 17, 2012 demonstration at Zuccotti Park. She'll be sentenced May 19, when she faces anywhere from probation to seven years in prison.

McMillan maintains that she only elbowed officer Grantley Bovell after he grabbed her breast from behind; photographs of her injuries have been widely disseminated, including a handprint-shaped bruise on her breast. Her case has quickly become a cause celebre, with Russian activists Pussy Riot visiting her at Rikers and nine of the twelve jurors in her case writing to the judge for leniency. Her supporters have also written hundreds of letters to Judge Ronald Zweibel on her behalf. They plan to deliver 500 of them tomorrow, and another 500 or so on Monday. An online petition asking Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to intervene on her behalf has garnered more than 43,000 signatures.

McMillan, meanwhile, is wary that she'll be perceived as a media hog or someone gunning for political martyrdom. "I am not happy to be here," she said plainly.

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Rikers Captain Terrence Pendergrass Arrested for Inmate's Death

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On August 18, 2012, Jason Echevarria, a 25-year-old inmate at Rikers Island, swallowed a chunk of detergent powder. Guards had passed out the soap balls so that the inmates could clean their cells, which had been flooded by a sewage back-up. Echevarria soon began shouting for help. He banged on his cell door, told correction officers that he had eaten the soap ball, and demanded medical attention. A guard informed his captain about the situation and the captain told the guard that he should only call him if he needed help pulling a body out of a cell. A pharmacy technician and another guard also told the captain that Echevarria looked like he was in bad shape. The captain did nothing.

Guards found Echevarria dead the next morning.

On Monday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced that the Rikers captain, Terrence Pendergrass, has been arrested and charged with violating Echevarria's rights.

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"Amaze": Rikers Juvenile Inmates Get New Art From British Street Artist Ben Eine

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Keegan Hamilton

Rikers Island is a dismal and dangerous place. Spread across 415 acres of repurposed landfill in the the East River between the Bronx and Queens, the island is home to more than 12,000 inmates in 10 separate jail facilities. There were 73 stabbings and slashings committed by inmates in 2013, and the general reputation for brutality, rape, and abuse earned Rikers a ranking among America's 10 worst prisons last year. It's basically the last place on Earth that a street artist like Ben Eine wants to find himself.

Eine was arrested multiple times for vandalism during his days as a graffiti writer, and he has pulled off some impressive stunts (including painting the West Bank barrier in Palestine with Bansky), but his recent daylong stint in Rikers was completely legal and voluntary. In fact, a warden actually invited Eine to paint a wall inside the jail, part of a new program aimed at inspiring young inmates with art. I profiled Eine and his new gallery work last week for Village Voice, and he invited me along to document what promised to be a surreal experience inside New York's notorious lockup.

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Rikers Guard Sodomized Inmate with Flashlight, Says Complaint

Categories: Rikers Island

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More shadiness at Rikers.
On November 24, 2012, Rikers Island correction officers pulled inmate Anthony Wallace, 26, out of a medication line for a search. The process began standard enough: strip down, bend over, spread cheeks.

But then, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Bronx Supreme Court, the search took a heinous turn: correction officer Gregory Lewis allegedly removed a flashlight from his belt and "forcefully shoved the flashlight" into Wallace's anus.

When Wallace "stood up straight and asked" Lewis why he did did that, the complaint claims, Lewis replied, "Shut the fuck bitch and put your clothes back on."

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Rikers Fight Club: Correction Staff Let Melee Go for Over an Hour Without Stopping It; Four Inmates Badly Slashed

A dispute last week over a grilled cheese sandwich of all things led to a massive fight between two gangs in a city jail that was allowed by correction staff to continue for well over an hour without intervention, the Voice has learned.

See more: Our Cover Story, "Rikers Fight Club"

One inmate--27-year-old drug suspect Roberto Rivera--had a broken broom handle jammed into his eye socket, and two other inmates were slashed in the incident, which took place in the George R. Vierno Center on Monday, August 5, at about 9:20 p.m., correction sources tell the Voice. A fourth inmate was punctured with a shank, possibly a repurposed kitchen knife.

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Westchester County D.A. Janet DiFiore and Civil Rights Groups Press Albany on Ending Practice of Treating Teens Offenders as Adults

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It's a little-known fact that New York is one of only two states that treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. That's right, one of only two states.

Periodically, there have been efforts to change that law to define adult offenders as those who are 18 and older, but in the past, those efforts have drowned in Albany's dangerous shoals.

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Voice Exposé Leads to Indictment of 10 Jail Staffers, Including a Top Chief, For Brutal Beating of Inmate

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Prosecutors in the Bronx will unseal indictments today of 10 Correction Department staffers for the brutal July 11, 2012, beating of an inmate and other misconduct, in a case first exposed by the Village Voice last August.

In addition, the Voice has learned that the Manhattan District Attorney's office is investigating an incident in which Correction staff allegedly planted evidence, which also took place on July 11 at the Manhattan jail known as the Tombs. The Justice Department is also said to be nosing around.

The indictments to be announced tomorrow and the Manhattan D.A.'s investigation center on a shadowy "anti-violence task force" or "special search squad." The unit roamed the island off the books, assaulting at least two inmates and planted evidence in at least one case. The task force was sanctioned by top uniformed officers in the DOC.

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