Rikers Captain Terrence Pendergrass Arrested for Inmate's Death

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.

More »

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

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.

More »

Rikers Guard Sodomized Inmate with Flashlight, Says Complaint

Categories: Rikers Island

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."

More »

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.

More »

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

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for rikersfightsoap.jpg
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.

More »

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

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for rikersfightsoap.jpg
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.

More »

Shocking Rikers Security Breach! Convicted Sex Offender Posing as Correction Staffer Roams Jails, No One Stops Him

Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro has a major problem: a massive breach of jail security. The Voice has learned that a convicted sex offender with a long rap sheet was recently able to repeatedly drive onto Rikers Island and roam jails and other highly secure areas over a period of more than week, right under the noses of dozens of clueless correction supervisors and officers.

Matthew Matagrano (pictured at right), was not an inmate during the period. The 36-year-old former resident of Yonkers and South Ozone Park is listed as a high-risk sex offender in the state's registry. Matagrano has a record of convictions for sodomy, first-degree sex abuse, burglary, and, not surprisingly, criminal impersonation. He has been arrested more than a dozen times, and has served several stints on Rikers.

More »

Rikers Gets New Program to Help Folks Stay Out of Jail

Thumbnail image for rikersboard.jpg
Okay folks, admittedly we're kind of hard on the Correction Department. We've published a bunch of articles about bad goings on out in the Rikers Island jails in recent years. But this time, we're going to throw some kudos to Commissioner Dora Schriro and Mayor Bloomberg for starting a new program to help prevent inmates from returning to jail once they are released. (Just under half of adult inmates who get out of jail go back within a year.)

More »

Ronald Spear's Death At Rikers: A Host of Disturbing Questions Emerge

Courtesy of Ronald Spear's sister.
Ronald Spear.
On the afternoon of Dec. 19, Nellie Kelly's phone rang. The caller identified himself as an inmate on Rikers Island, and told her he had some bad news about her brother, Ronald Spear.

The inmate's name was Jesse James. He was 29, and had been awaiting trial since September in the jail known as the North Infirmary Command. James told Kelly that her brother was dead.

"He says, you don't know me, but I know your brother, I'm so sorry, they killed your brother today," Kelly tells the Voice.

Knowing that Ronald had serious heart and kidney ailments, and had complained repeatedly about the quality of Rikers medical care, she said, "How? Was it the wrong medicine?"

"No," James replied. "They beat him to death."

More »

Jason Echeverria's Death In City Jail Ruled Homicide; Mentally Ill Inmate Swallowed Detergent, Staff Didn't Act

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image
The city Medical Examiner has classified the Aug. 19 death of a Rikers Island inmate who swallowed a ball of laundry detergent as a homicide, the Voice has learned.

The death of Jason Echeverria in the Mental Health Assessment Unit in the George R. Vierno Center is believed to be the first homicide on Rikers since 49-year-old Angel Ramirez died on July 17, 2011 after being struck by a correction officer during a scuffle.

Echeverria's death was initially thought to be a suicide, but the ME had not completed its investigation until this week. Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the ME, declined to comment beyond confirming the cause and manner of death.

People familiar with the incident tell the Voice that the death became a homicide because after Echeverria swallowed the soap, a correction officer notified his captain but staff did nothing to treat him for some time. That failure to act allegedly led to his death, they said.

The news left Echeverria's father, Ramon, at a loss for words. "I leave it in God's hands," he told the Voice. "I can't bring him back. I'm not saying he was an angel, but you don't let people die that way."

More »

Now Trending

From the Vault