Two Lawsuits Filed Against the City Over Diabetes Deaths at Rikers Island

On August 24, 2013, 46-year-old Rikers Island inmate Carlos Mercado fell into a diabetic coma and then died. Less than three weeks later, on September 11, 39-year-old Rikers inmate Bradley Ballard died of diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication of the disease occurring when a diabetic does not get enough insulin.

Now, a year later, the families of both men have sued the city, charging that the jail caused the deaths by failing to provide the men adequate medical care for their disease.

More »

Solitary Confinement at Rikers Island is Torture and 'Inexcusably Extreme,' Bronx Defenders Say

Rikers-contraband-sign-Flickr-Matt-Green.jpg
Photo by Flickr user Matt Green
An entrance to Rikers Island.
Inmates are placed in solitary confinement at Rikers Island for "inexcusably extreme" amounts of time, a new report charges, "egregiously disproportionate" to the infractions they are alleged to have committed. While in solitary, it can be difficult for inmates to get access to the most basic of services, including food, showers, and phone time. That's according to the Bronx Defenders, a criminal defense nonprofit that represents several hundred thousand people in the Bronx each year. They've just released "Voices From the Box," a report on the conditions their clients experienced in solitary at Rikers, New York City's largest jail facility.

More »

Inmate Can Sue Rikers Island for Keeping Him in Isolation During Muslim Prayer Service

prison-hall-ground.JPG
krystian_o via Compfight cc
On November 22, 2011, Rikers Island guards put Kevin Phillip into a segregation housing unit. It was punishment for something he did. Phillip spent 36 days there. On two Fridays over that stretch, Phillip asked the guards if he could attend a Muslim prayer service at the jail. The guards said that he was not allowed to while he was on punishment in the isolation unit.

More »

Financial Claims From Rikers Inmates Rose Dramatically over the Past Five Years

rikers-graph-tot-sm.jpg
Credit: New York City Comptroller
Personal injury claims have risen dramatically over the past five years at Rikers Island Jail
Comptroller Scott Stringer has been getting some good press lately for his new ClaimStat program, which tracks financial claims against the city as a way of identifying potential problems. A New York Times editorial called it nothing less than a step toward "better governance through data."

More »

Cecily McMillan Asks Corrections Commissioner to Address "Desperate" Situation for Rikers' Women

McMillan-rikers-statement.jpg
McMillan reading a statement at the Rikers gates after her release in July.
It seems pretty clear that the situation at Rikers Island, the jail that holds the vast majority of New York City's prisoners, is reaching some kind of critical mass. While no one has ever been under the impression that it's some kind of model facility, a recent, scathing series of reports has revealed just how bad things are: after a two year investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice found "rampant" use of excessive force by guards against adolescent inmates. Before that, in July of this year, an investigation by the New York Times found similar brutality committed by corrections officers against mentally ill inmates. Three guards have been arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail, with correction officials darkly hinting there may be more arrests to follow.

In the wake of all that, Cecily McMillan, former Occupy protester and brief one-time resident of Rikers, is urging Commissioner Ponte to address what she calls the "desperate" situation at Rikers, particularly for women.

More »

Rikers Island Violence Violates Constitutional Rights of Younger Inmates, says DOJ

Rikers Island is a very violent place. We've known this for a while now and are reminded with each new report about an inmate beaten or dying at the facility. For years, inmates and advocates have called out corrections officials for the ongoing brutality at Rikers. Now the federal government has too. The U.S. Department of Justice declared, in a report released on Monday, that the conditions at Rikers Island are unconstitutional. More »

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

Rikers-contraband-sign-Flickr-Matt-Green.jpg
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.

More »

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

McMillan-rikers-statement.jpg
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.

More »

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

Cecily_McMillan_Marty_Stolar.jpg
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.

More »

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

cecly-mcmillan-zach-roberts.jpg
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.

More »

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...