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Rikers Island Correction Prison — History, Violence, Corruption, and Possible Future

RikersIsland Correction Prison—History, Violence, Corruption, andPossible Future

RikersIsland Correction Prison—History, Violence, Corruption, andPossible Future


RikersIsland is located along the East River, between Queens and themainland, Bronx. The island was named after Abraham Rycken, an earlyDutch explorer who settled on the bordering Long Island, while hisdescendant population expanded and occupied Rikers Island. The isleis home to the world`s largest correctional and mental institutions.Historically, it served as a military training base during theAmerican Civil War for different regiment groups such as the 9th NewYork Infantry and the 36th New York State Volunteers. During thetime, the island was under the jurisdiction of Queens County.However, in 1883, the New York`s City Commission of Charities andCorrection sought the permission of the state to acquire the island.The bill was tabled and signed, authorizing the commissioner ofcharities and corrections to purchase the island from John Wilson, adescendant of the Rycken`s family (Gonnerman, 2014).

TheNew York city council expressed desire in 1925 to put up a jail formen on the island to help ease congestion in other prisons, a projectthat was initiated and later completed in 1932. The land wasinitially a dumpsite but was later reclaimed to become an inhabitableland. The past dumping activities had dealt the island a significantblow, marked by the severe infestation of rodents and fires. Theresidents had protested for an alternative site for dumping to cleanup the island. Also, the established prison became the most preferredrehabilitation facilities for many prisoners. It would later becomeso congested that prison authorities resorted to using old boats andship containers to create more room for inmates (Gonnerman, 2014).

Thebeaming economic activity demand attracted efforts to enlarge theland from the original 90 acres to the current 415 acres, paving theway for establishment of the North Beach airport, which was fullyopened for operation in 1939. This airport would later be renamedLaGuardia Airport.

Oneof the historical, moving stories about the island is the NortheastAirlines Flight 823 plane crash in 1957 that caused 20 deaths andinjured 78 passengers. The Prisoners at the facility wereparticularly proactive in engaging the rescue mission. Their actionsattracted the attention of the whole world over the solicitudeactions. Moved by their response, the governor and the New Yorkcouncil Parole Board reduced the sentences the prisoners (Gonnerman,2014).


Accordingto Pearson (2014), violence has been deeply rooted in Rikers IslandPrison. He notes that the prison is the worst place anyone on earthcan reside, attributed scenario attributable to the failure of theenforcement authorities to curb prison deviance. Since theestablishment of the prison in 1932, multiple cases of violencewithin the prison involving inmates` attacks on correctionalofficers, as well as correction officers` attacks on the inmates havebeen documented. The inhuman treatment of the inmates prompted theintervention of the United States prison authority, which unearthedthe cruel acts of the correctional officers in prison. Pearson (2014)acknowledges that violence between rival gangs has been rampant amonginmates in the jail because of conflicts of interests.

Despiteseveral measures to reduce the population of inmates in the facilityto reduce violence cases, the incidences have still been pronounced.For instance, in 2015, 9, 2424 assault cases, which is the highest infive years, were reported. It is interesting to note that thepopulation of the facility had been reduced to just 10,000 inmates.The stabbing cases rose to 108 in 2015 compared to the previous year.The cases of violence have doubled the expenditure of facility,compared to other prison facilities such as Miami and Chicago. Inessence, the violence incidents have been increasing despite areduction in the number of inmates in prison.


Corruptionhas been the cause of many incidences that have been happening inRikers prison. Drug gangs have build connections with some of thecorrectional officers attached to the facility, as well as theinmates, to facilitate their businesses. The statistics by ACLU/HumanRights Watch (2012) reveals 85 percent of the drugs that gain accessto the facility pass through correctional officers. Cases of officersbeing caught while attempting to smuggle drugs, such as marijuana,have been rampant. The drugs have been one of the major causes ofviolence among inmates in the facility. Inmates have engaged injoining and forming gang alliances as a means of self-defense fromrivaling gangs (ACLU/Human Rights Watch, 2012).

Theinstitution has attracted criticism from many quarters around theUnited States on the acts of corruption that have led to the escapeof hard criminals and attempted prison breaks. Correctional officershave been facilitating the escape of inmates in exchange for bribes.Cell phones have been gaining entry into the facility because oflaxity and corruption among correctional civil servants (Winerip,2014).


TheU.S. Department of Justice (2014) notes that Ricker prison has beenmarred by some challenges, including prison congestion, corruption,and violence. Despite the efforts the prison management efforts toease congestion in the facility, incidences of violence have been onthe rise. The prison has not been able to serve the main purpose thatit was intended to serve, that is, to effectively rehabilitateoffenders. Instead, the inmates in the facilities have always becomeworse characters.

Rickerprison has been at the center of drug trafficking in the UnitedStates. Laxity by the correctional officer and the management toimplement the laws that are supposed to govern the prison has enableddrug peddlers to sneak drugs into the jail with the help ofcorrection officers. Correctional officers have been working underharsh conditions with little compensation, factors that have enabledmany of them to accept bribes and allow the drugs to gain access tothe prison. The number of officers involved in the chain has beenrising despite the efforts by the jail management carrying out thenecessary transfer of officers that were implicated.

Inconclusion, the future of the prison facility lies on how theauthorities will be willing to sacrifice to address the impendingissues at hand. The prison management will have to improve theworking conditions of the correctional officers if the facility is toexhibit positive changes (U.S. Department of Justice, 2014). Therewill be the need for restructuring of the management and installationof more security and intelligence systems to help monitor checkinmate violent behaviors.


ACLU/HumanRights Watch (2012). GrowingUp Locked Dowd: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons inthe United States. UnitedStates of America. Retrieved fromhttps://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/us1012ForUpload.pdf

Gonnerman,J. (2014), &quotBefore the Law&quot, TheNew Yorker,October 6, 2014, pp. 26–32. Retrieved fromhttps://www.law.uw.edu/wlr/online-edition/the-two-sided-speedy-trial-problem

Pearson,J (2014). &quotNYC Inmate &quotBaked to death&quot in cell&quot.APNews.AP. Retrieved AP News. Retrieved fromdocshare01.docshare.tips/files/24609/246092571.pdf

U.S.Department of Justice (2014). &quotCRIPA Investigation of the NewYork City Department of Correction Jails on Rikers Island&quot. NYTimes.Retrieved 5 November 2014.www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/05/nyregion/05rikers-report.html

Winerip,M. (2014). &quotIn Rare Rebuke for Rikers Officers, Judge UrgesFiring of 6 Who Beat Inmate&quot. TheNew York Times.Retrieved fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/nyregion/in-rare-decision-judge-urges-firing-for-6-rikers-island-officers-who-beat-inmate.html