New images show harrowing scenes from inside New York's notorious Rikers Island jail, including prisoners in filthy and life-threatening situations
- Newly obtained images show harrowing scenes inside New York City's notorious Rikers Island jail.
- The photos show a prisoner left to sit in their own feces and another being confined in a shower stall.
Harrowing images from New York City's notorious Rikers Island jail show dire conditions, including prisoners being left to sit in their feces, overdosing, and being detained in shower stalls.
The images, first published by The Gothamist and later obtained by Insider, were shown to a group of over 200 Manhattan prosecutors in a Board of Correction presentation in August.
Incapacitated or overdosing prisoners helped by fellow incarcerated people
One graphic series of images show a person in custody defecating in his shorts due to the absence of a toilet and sitting in his feces. The man remained in his soiled clothes for 11 hours before being given another pair of pants by another person in custody, according to the presentation.
Several images and videos show incarcerated people attempting to get aid for sick or unresponsive prisoners, with prison officers apparently not present or involved.
One series of images shows a group of incarcerated people carrying an unresponsive prisoner downstairs and through hallways in the jail complex to get them help.
Prosecutors were also shown a video in which prisoners administered Narcan to a person who was apparently overdosing on opioids.
Five Mualimm-Ak, an activist and former Rikers' detainee on the panel during the Board of Corrections presentation, told Insider that prosecutors seemed shocked by the images.
"It was just a lot of shock and questions of why is this happening and the mechanics of where the officers were," he said.
"These are 200 ADAs [assistant district attorneys] who have never seen the inside of the jail. Meanwhile, they're currently sending people there. I think the important part was to show them this is where you're sending this person."
The prison complex is one of the largest and most expensive in the United States, according to data from NYC Open Data.
The commissioner of the Department of Correction, Louis Molina, told The Gothamist: "These disturbing images represent points in time — not continuous conditions on Rikers Island. Our infrastructure and staffing challenges, which are the result of years of mismanagement and neglect, are no secret."
He added that an "action plan" was being implemented to improve the jail's conditions. Molina's office did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
Reports have emerged of brutal beatings, the sexual assault of female officers, and a growing opioid crisis. A video obtained by The New York Times earlier this year showed a lawless "fight night" among prisoners.
A prisoner was kept in a shower stall for nearly 24 hours
Another image shows a person standing in a decontamination shower stall, intended to be used to wash off chemical spray used to break up fights between prisoners.
Activists and formerly incarcerated people have alleged that the jail uses the shower stalls for solitary confinement.
The person pictured in the shower stall was never sprayed with chemicals but was held in the stall for nearly 24 hours, according to the presentation.
The following image shows the person being transported on a gurney due to self-harm.
Poor conditions and dilapidated facilities
The annual cost of incarceration in New York grew to $556,539 a person per year – or $1,525 each day in 2021, according to the New York City Comptroller. Still, despite the high spending, the Rikers images show extensive decay and dilapidation of the facilities, including broken floors, ceilings, and fire-singed doors.
A "makeshift laundry" is also pictured, showing a room covered in trash, food, and clothes soaked in buckets.
Images also show rotten food, including moldy bread and fruit.
Mualimm-Ak said that he believed the conditions at Rikers were "inhumane" and that he supports calls for the jail to be shut down.
"The atrocities seen here make up a small amount of what's really going on," he said.
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