Rikers Island Visiting Hours: Wed & Th 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m Fr, Sa & Su 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m 

Rikers Island New York City’s main jail complex : The island in the East River between Queens and the Bronx

Rikers Island Visiting Hours: Overview

The visit schedule is based on the first letter of the incarcerated individual’s last name. Visitors should check the visitation schedule to be sure their friend or family member is eligible for a visit on a specific day. Click on the month below.

Click here for monthly visiting schedule charts

There are no visits on Mondays and Tuesdays

Wednesday and Thursday

Registration hours for all facilities on Rikers Island as well as for the Brooklyn Detention Complex in downtown Brooklyn, the Manhattan Detention Complex in downtown Manhattan and the Vernon C. Bain Center in the Bronx on Wednesdays and Thursdays are from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Visits are permitted from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., but visitors must register by 8:00 p.m.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Registration hours for the above facilities on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Visits will begin no earlier than 8:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m., but visitors must register by 2:00 p.m.  (Please note: the start of visiting hours can be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances.)

Facility lockdowns may affect regularly scheduled visit hours.

* Visits to DOC Hospital Prison Wards located in Bellevue Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital occur on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Registration hours for the Bellevue Hospital Prison Ward are from 1:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visits are permitted from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. On City Holidays, registration hours are from 8:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. and visits are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration and visit hours for the Elmhurst Hospital Prison Ward are from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Individuals located in the Elmhurst Hospital Outpost may receive visits from 12:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. Registration and visit hours for the Elmhurst Hospital Prison Ward are not affected by City Holidays.

Number of Visits and Visitors

Individuals in custody are permitted to visit with up to three (3) visitors at the same time, with the maximum number to be determined by conditions set forth in each facility, availability of space and volume of visitors/individuals in custody.  Detainees may receive visits three (3) times per week.  Sentenced individuals may receive visits two (2) times per week.  All individuals in custody are limited to one (1) visit session per visit day, regardless of the number of visitors in that session.

Rikers Island Jail Visiting Hours

Rikers Island Visiting Hours: Wed & Th 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m Fr, Sa & Su 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m 

Visit an Inmate

1. Visitors will be subject to passive canine searches when arriving to the Rikers Island Visit Control Building or the Borough facilities, or any other facility including the Hospital Prison Wards.

2. All visitors 16 years of age and older must present valid current identification that contains a photograph and signature. Acceptable forms of identification for all visitors are listed below.

3. Children under the age of 16 who are accompanied by an adult over 18 are not required to present any identification at all.

4. A 16-year-old or 17-year old with valid identification may accompany a child under the age of 16 if he or she is the parent of that child and the inmate being visited is also the parent of the same child. In this case, the 16- or 17-year-old must produce a birth certificate for the child under the age of 16.

Acceptable Forms of Identification

From any state or territory in the U.S.:

  • Current driver’s license
  • Valid Employment ID card with photo AND most recent employment paycheck/stub
  • DMV Non-driver license identification card

Other Acceptable Forms of Identification

  • Resident alien or permanent resident card issued by the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Passport (from any country)
  • NYS benefits identification card (Medicaid/food stamp photo ID)
  • U.S. Armed Services identification
  • Consulate-issued or diplomatic identification
  • IDNYC card

If you have any questions while at a facility, please ask a Correction Officer or Supervisor

Rikers Island Visiting Hours – Rikers Island Facilities

Anna M. Kross Center (AMKC)
18-18 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

Eric M. Taylor Center (EMTC) Formerly known as CIFM
10-10 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

George Motchan Detention Center (GMDC)
15-15 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

George R. Vierno Center (GRVC)
09-09 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

James A. Thomas Center (JATC)
14-14 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

North Infirmary Command (NIC)
15-00 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

Otis Bantum Correctional Center (OBCC)
16-00 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

Robert N. Davoren Complex (RNDC)
11-11 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC)
19-19 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

West Facility (WF)
16-06 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

Rikers Island Visiting Hours: Wed & Th 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m Fr, Sa & Su 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m 

Directions to Rikers Island

By Bus: Take either the MTA Q101 or Q100 to Rikers Island. The Q101 originates in Manhattan, at East 59th Street and Second Avenue. It will take you to Hazen Street and 19th Avenue in Queens, which is the entrance to Rikers Island. You will have to transfer here to the Q100 bus to travel over the Rikers Island Bridge to the Rikers Island Visit Center.

The Q100 originates on Jackson Av at 42 Road and continues to the Rikers Island Visit Center. Consult the MTA for schedules.

Download the Q100 bus schedule

By Car: Parking is very limited. Public transportation is best option. From the Bronx or Manhattan, take the Triboro Bridge to Queens eastbound along the Grand Central Parkway. Exit at Astoria Boulevard, bear left and go straight on 23rd Avenue (just after Grand Central Parkway entrance ramp) to 82nd Street. Left on 82nd Street to 81st Street. Right on 81st Street (name changes to 19th Avenue) to the first traffic light. This is Hazen Street. Right on Hazen to Rikers Island parking lot.

Note: After exiting at Astoria Boulevard, all distances traveling thereafter are very short.

From Brooklyn or Staten Island, take the BQE toward Queens and follow directions above for traveling on Astoria Boulevard.

Where is Rikers Island on the Map?

Bellevue Hospital Prison Ward (BHPW)
462 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Driving Directions

Brooklyn Detention Complex (BKDC)
275 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Public Transportation: Take 2 or 3 to Hoyt Street. 4 or 5 to Borough Hall A, C, G to Hoyt Schermerhorn or N or R trains to Jay Street Metro Tech.
Driving Directions

Elmhurst Hospital Prison Ward (EHPW)
79-01 Broadway
Queens, NY 11370
Public Transportation: Take 7 train to 74 Street and Broadway or E, M or R trains to Elmhurst Avenue.
Driving Directions

Manhattan Detention Complex (MDC)
125 White Street
New York, NY 10013
Public Transportation: Take 6, N, Q, R, J, or Z trains to Canal Street.
Driving Directions

Queens Detention Complex (QDC)
126-01 82nd Avenue
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
Public Transportation: Take E or F train to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike or the LIRR to Kew Gardens.
Driving Directions

Vernon C. Bain Center (VCBC)
1 Halleck Street
Bronx, NY 10474
Driving Directions

Correction Academy
Rentar Plaza
66-26 Metropolitan Ave.
Middle Village
Public Transportation: Take the J train to Myrtle Avenue transfer to the M train and take the M to Middle Village- Metropolitan Avenue. Once you are off the train head East.
Driving directions

Bulova Building- DOC Headquarters
75-20 Astoria Blvd.
East Elmhurst, NY 11370
Public Transportation: Take the E Train to Jackson Heights, walk to Victor Moore terminal and catch the Q47 to Marine Air Terminal A. Get off at 77st/25th ave and walk to the Bulova building.
Driving directions

Rikers Island

Why is Rikers Island so bad?

Yes, as a New Yorker, I’m well aware of the legendary institution that is Rikers Island. It looms in the distance like an ominous behemoth and practically everyone has a story to tell about it.

If you’re not familiar, Rikers Island is the notorious prison that houses NYC’s worst offenders, including murderers and rapists. It’s not a place for the faint of heart. With an active population exceeding 10,000 inmates and guards on duty 24/7, it’s gargantuan size is only matched by its equally infamous history of corruption and violence within its walls. Full-blown riots have been common with guards abusing their power to target inmates who are in solitary confinement for no reason. The situation has reached a breaking point as relatives of the inmates report that they can’t even visit their loved ones because violent attacks have become so commonplace.

Rikers Island is also a breeding ground for dangerous prisoners. By incarcerating these men and women there, they are able to rebuild their networks. As inmates are released to prepare for their release date, often years after they should be given almost no education since there is little reason to teach the newly reformed criminal. These “pre-release” inmates are thus easily re-recruitable and it’s a very lucrative business, with some earning thousands per month in prison by doing what they do best – crime. “Ponzi schemes” are actually quite rampant inside Rikers Island and any money that can be stolen by a prisoner is done so without mercy, as there’s no law enforcement there to stop them.

And if an inmate isn’t busy breaking the law, they’re taking it out on each-other. The violence that prisoners inflict upon each-other is so severe that a “protection” fee is required by the inmates to keep themselves safe from attacks. Money laundering, extortion and drug trafficking are so common that there are even records of torture chambers being constructed by gangs who run entire blocks.

So what can be done about Rikers Island? The Mayor has already proposed a $10 billion dollar plan to improve conditions there but it seems like yet another empty promise in a city where doing something takes more effort than simply talking about doing something.

Anything less would be criminal. http://nypost.com/2014/07/18/why-is-rikers-so-bad/

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Inside Rikers Island

When will Rikers Island close?

The inmates on Rikers Island have been fighting for years to close this prison. Now, with the recent release of a video showing an inmate being savagely beaten by guards in October of 2015, the call for shuttering this decrepit facility has become louder than ever.

Mayor de Blasio admits that recidivism at Rikers is high and he is committed to finding a way to reduce the brutality and violence that infects all aspects of life on the island. The mayor’s first step was eliminating solitary confinement for young people ages 18-21, which often exacerbates mental illness or intellectual disability. However, he is not ready to commit to closing Rikers.

The city has been looking for a site to build a new facility that will replace Rikers Island and they have narrowed their search down to three sites in the Bronx.

While de Blasio and his aides are reluctant to publicly talk about closing Rikers outright, others are beginning to embrace the idea of getting rid of this hellhole. New York State Senator and former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito says that the mayor will have no choice but to close Rikers by 2027 if he wants reductions in violence on the island as promised. “Rikers Island is a man-made hellhole. It has been for many, many years.”

“The mayor will have no choice. If he wants to reduce violence he will have to close Rikers.”

The question now is, how long will it take the city to come up with a plan to shut down this prison? What I hope can be done right away is that they start getting rid of the judges that run the place. The only way Rikers will ever close is if we get rid of all of them. They are the problem, not us tough guys or smart people who are just trying to survive in this place called Rikers Island.

Where will the new jails be located?

There are many decisions that still need to be made regarding where the new jails will be located. Initially, there were five possible sites: a brownfield site at the Fort, a former municipal wastewater treatment plant on Buffalo Street, and three greenfield sites north of town. A decision was expected by January 31st but no decision has yet been made.

The county council is set to make its final decision about where to put two new federal prisons with 1,200 beds in the weeks ahead after exploring all possibilities for potentially dumping them in Westmoreland County.

Councilman Jim Crawford said he is hopeful plans for the sites will be ready for council action by the end of February.

The county has already taken $3.4 million in payments from the developer of the former wastewater plant site at Buffalo Street, near New Stanton in Plum Borough, and put that money into a lockbox to be used toward building an access road there. Council President Eugene Kopacz said that money will be available later this month if work on the access road can start immediately so construction can begin as soon as possible.

In the meantime, though, the County Council has been trying to figure out if it is a good idea to build the prisons on state-owned land at the Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard training site in northern Lebanon County.

The Army base is one of several sites that have been under consideration since last year as possible locations for two federal detention centers with 1,200 beds each. The $400 million project is expected to bring jobs to Westmoreland County and could help keep down property taxes because it could generate more than $2 million annually in revenue for local governments.

But along with the potential benefits has come a great deal of controversy. When the county administration began negotiations with the Army over how much it would cost to use the Army property, there was strong opposition from some residents and local officials who were opposed to locating a prison in their neighborhood.

The county administration and council also had to contend with concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., who had been asked to weigh in on the project by the Department of Justice. In a letter dated Jan. 15, Casey wrote that he was concerned about Westmoreland County’s proposal and urged the county to ensure that any proposed facility would generate jobs and bring revenue for local governments.

The senators’ concerns underscore an important difference between what the developers have said they want out of the sites and what those opposed to the sites have wanted.

The developers of the prison project say they want to build “minimum security” facilities that would house about 500 detainees each. The detainees would come from areas near the prisons. The developers say they expect to have inmates from the Middle East, Central America and Asia who will need intensive assistance to learn English and be prepared for their eventual return home.

But the idea of having foreign prisoners in a county that has long held fast to its image as “The Crossroads of America” — and where only about 1 percent of residents are foreign-born — has struck some residents as being potentially dangerous. Others worry that having the prisons nearby will lead to an increase in crime and property values will fall.

“I guess if (the developers) were really worried about the tax base they would put it somewhere else,” said Plum Borough Councilman John Pallone, who has been among the most vocal opponents of locating prisons in his borough.

No matter where they are built, the prisons will eventually create jobs and help keep down the property taxes of local residents, according to backers of the project.

The 1,200 beds would be divided between two facilities and both are expected to be at about half-capacity, meaning that would create more than 700 jobs for guard staff alone. The developers have also pledged to invest at least $7 million with local contractors on construction and about $3 million in site improvements such as upgrades to roads.

The prisons are expected to be available for occupancy by 2016. Once they are built, the developers will share about $2.4 million annually with Westmoreland County and the boroughs of Hempfield, Donegal and Monessen — communities where the prisons would be located — as well as Brackenridge, South Huntingdon and Union townships.

Plum Borough Council has voted on three separate occasions to oppose having any prisons built in its neighborhood. The council also approved a resolution of support for having a prison built at Fort Indiantown Gap with just one dissenting vote from Councilwoman Susan Wisnoski.

But on Monday, Wisnoski changed her position and supported having the prisons built at the Fort. She has not said why she changed her mind except to say that she is trying to do what is best for her constituents.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com. Staff writer Kevin Kunz contributed to this report. To view a list of council members’ positions on the issue, visit triblive.com/prison_positions.

How Rikers Island Became the Most Notorious Jail in America

It may be impossible for a New Yorker to understand just how shocking and frightening Rikers Island is to visitors. I’ve been going there for two decades, and I still have an urge to repel off the landing ferry.

Never has this isolated outpost of mayhem, death and disease been more closely studied than it is now in a searing study by the Department of Justice, which found that young inmates there are “routinely subjected to violence,” while women are “sexual assaulted by guards.”

How did we get here? And how do we find our way out? These are the vital questions raised by this report.

Rikers is a detached island in the East River, connected to the mainland by a bridge. It’s surrounded by Lower Manhattan, and it’s by far the largest jail in the country. And it’s for some reason, infamous.

What makes this place so horrifying? I think there are a few reasons. One is that New York has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and Rikers houses about 15 percent of that population. Another is that many people believe it’s not possible for urban jails to be more violent than rural ones. (I’m sure many people say they don’t want to support Rikers’ funding; please don’t let them change your mind. If you care about this issue, tell them what you’ve learned from the DOJ and let them draw their own conclusions.)

It’s also because New Yorkers have a clear view of Rikers from the Staten Island Ferry and other spots. It has a massive footprint, which is an advantage if you’re trying to make a point about overcrowding: There’s no way to go unnoticed when you see miles of buildings on the island. And it’s patrolled by helicopters.

The facility on Rikers Island was first opened in 1932; it took until 1950 for there to be any female inmates there at all. In 1954, women were shipped off to other facilities in New York City. (The male population was shuttled off to the mainland until its own facility opened in 1965.)

In 2005, a federal court ordered that two jails for young adults be closed because they were in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. It took more than half a decade of litigation before anything was done about those decrepit places.

One was closed in 2013, and Rikers is on its way to shutting down the other by 2017 — though it’s also building two new jails for juveniles. (There are now nine facilities on Rikers Island.) In 2014, the Department of Justice issued a report that found staggering rates of violence against teenage inmates at Rikers — both from staff members and other inmates.

The federal investigation that led to the DOJ report took place between 2006 and 2012. It found “numerous, systemic failures” in the way Rikers Island was run, including a pervasive culture of violence and corruption.

Among the many shocking findings: Three-quarters of all inmate assaults go unreported; about 85 percent of inmates who are repeatedly bullied or are physically harassed aren’t able to get help from staff; most inmates in solitary confinement will suffer physical harm there, even when they’re being subjected to assaults from other inmates — often by staff members.

And that’s just the stuff that wasn’t reported. When prisoners were tried in court for their abuse by other inmates, officers were often suspended but not replaced.

The report was damning. It called Rikers “a place of confinement that stands out as especially harsh,” and it said conditions were so brutal that the island jail “has no comparably harsh effect on inmates.” The report was written in an unusually formal, measured tone, which is indicative of what must have been a great struggle over its language.

It’s not often you find activists and politicians singing from the same hymnal. But when they looked at Rikers Island and saw what was happening to young people there — with some staff members calling them “snitches” — they saw only one thing: a perfect storm.

This is where Justice Department lawyer Darius Charney comes in. He was the lead attorney on the investigation, and he’s a guy who really gets excited about going to the gym.

“It’s not just a matter of putting handcuffs on someone and throwing them in a cage,” Charney told me recently. “The whole mindset has to change.”

Charney won a long battle to force changes at Rikers Island, and he took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. He’s responsible for devising ways for young offenders there to be housed in other facilities managed by New York City before they’re sent off to lower Manhattan.

But that wasn’t his primary purpose. “There’s no way you can make Rikers Island safe,” he said. “The only thing you can do is bring it up to a higher level of safety.”

How did Charney go about doing that? He spent months travelling around the country, meeting with prison officials and getting feedback from corrections experts. The DOJ would’ve been happy for him just to go back to Rikers and put officials on notice that their days were numbered.

But instead, he went searching for what might work in other jails and in the minds of prison officials there. He found some very good people — including forensic psychologists who specialize in gang-affiliated offenders — who’d been able to save other institutions from themselves.

Charney also visited prisons in Norway that house inmates in small, low-security cells. He visited a jail space that had been built and staffed specifically with people who are addicted to drugs in mind. It’s called the “therapeutic facility.”

He learned that there were many ways to improve life for young people on Rikers Island — including finding ways to work with the culture of young people who’d been accused of crimes. All along, he’d needed an advocate on the inside whose thinking was progressive enough to match his own. That’s what Mark Peters became.

Peters was appointed the deputy commissioner of New York City’s Department of Corrections in April 2014, a time when he was just 31 years old. He’d been working for the city for a decade, but he’d had to struggle to make his voice heard. He’d finally found an ally in Charney and a boss in Mayor Bill de Blasio who shared his progressive vision.

Peters began looking at how prisons across America had been transformed over the years by progressive officials like him and prison leaders like new warden Clara Longo, who’s worked in prisons for decades but has never been afraid to try new things.

In the past, Charney said, many corrections officials had “disowned” inmates based on the fact that they had tattoos or that they weren’t Christian. “Mark Peters said to me, ‘We’re not going to disown these kids,'” Charney remembered.

Peters also sought out correctional officials who’d been working inside prisons for a long time and were willing to try new approaches. In September 2015, he announced a plan to reduce the number of young people held in solitary confinement by a third over the next five years — an initiative which was quickly praised by the DOJ and independent experts as well as De Blasio’s administration. Peters also sought guidance from prominent figures like Dr. Carl Ross, the president of the New York-based Center for Court Innovation. He was also a former corrections secretary who’d worked at Rikers Island, and he led a team that studied how to reduce violence inside jails. Ross’s new report on new and old approaches to violence informed Peters’ decisions.

The department is also in the midst of creating two dozen “change centers” like one Peters spearheaded in South Carolina. Called reentry centers, these are rehabilitation facilities that act as halfway houses for people leaving prison. Under correctional officials like Peters, they’re now open campuses where inmates work or receive vocational training while they wait to get out of jail on bail or probation. This system proved successful in Charleston, S.C., where the new inmates who enrolled were less likely to return to prison than inmates who failed to enroll. It’s proven so successful in Charleston that Peters has tried to implement it throughout the country.

But Peters’ reentry program created a few problems for the Corrections Department, and problems its very nature strengthened. Whereas before the effort was largely funded by grants and fee-based contracts with local government and private companies, now it was funded entirely by funds diverted from prison construction — meaning there was more pressure on his department to meet quotas set by those same private firms and local governments.

“They really didn’t have the resources to accomplish the goals,” says Joanne Belknap, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado Denver who has studied the program. “From the get-go, it was coerced.”

It’s also easy to see how a program designed to give people a second chance would come up against the current winds of corrections. Prison populations are at record high levels nationwide, mainly because lawmakers have passed laws that lengthen sentences and transform non-violent offenders into felons. Many states now refuse to release inmates who’ve served more than 75 percent of their sentence unless they complete rehabilitation programs before they’re eligible for parole, including programs like one run by Peters’ center. This has created a system in which private companies and local governments are profiteering off people who’ve been put away for long periods of time. They don’t want that population to go down, even slightly. These companies help county officials develop plans for building new prisons or renovating old ones, and such plans all make the same dire prediction: If their requests are not granted, the state will have to send more inmates out of state.

Many of America’s prison systems suffer from “warehousing” problems — too many inmates stuck in cells with little access to education, mental health care or rehabilitation programs. As the country’s prison system has ballooned in size, there has been little movement toward improving conditions for inmates.

Maybe that’s why Charney didn’t concentrate on the major problems of overcrowding, violence and corruption inside New York City jails. Instead, he looked at new programs like the ones Peters had just implemented in South Carolina and ones being developed elsewhere around the country — programs that can get inmates out of isolation units and into classrooms, vocational training or even community living arrangements.

He studied ways to increase communication between staff members who work on Rikers Island and those who keep watch over people who’ve been released into their communities.

He looked for alternatives to the kinds of punishments that once sent many young people back to jail. Now that they’ve been given a new chance at life, they’re being punished again when they go back to the island, and many experts now believe that’s counter-productive.

Charney realized he needed to work with prison officials like Peters — not against them. And so his plan was born. It has a number of components: First is a new system for processing prisoners into and out of jails, as well as an effort to reduce violence inside the prisons themselves. Charney’s right: If you can’t keep Rikers Island safe, there’s no point in trying to make New York City jails safe.

But it took a year for Charney’s plan to come to pass. It was a long and arduous process: He had to draft the proposal, get it approved by New York City Council and then sell it to City Hall, and also lobby for it on the federal level. (It’s the only thing he’s ever lobbied for in his life.) Finally, in August 2015 — less than two weeks before he was set to leave his job — he sat down with Peters at Rikers Island. He presented him with five pages of ideas on how things could be changed there, including plans for expanding reentry services.

It was a hard sell. Charney wanted to know what kinds of programs he could bring to Rikers and how they’d be funded. He explained why he didn’t want to propose an actual reentry center on Rikers Island: that would just make it look like a country club for criminals. He encouraged Peters to look at other innovative reentry programs elsewhere in the country that had been proven successful in reducing recidivism rates — and Peters was open to those suggestions.

In effect, Charney was creating the blueprint for the Colorado Department of Corrections’ reentry program. He was about to create a new paradigm for prison reform and take the lead in selling it to New York’s highest officials. He was also about to help thousands of young people out of Rikers Island. Without that work, those changes might’ve never happened.

And now Peters is finally taking over as warden from Longo, who was forced into retirement after 14 years running the Correction Department. Peters has already said he’s willing to listen to advice from Charney and others, including many of the corrections experts he consulted while working for De Blasio. And that’s good news for people like Jeffrey, the guy who got out of solitary and created the “The Rikers Diaries” blog.

Jeffrey was released from solitary in June 2015 after spending the last nine months of his sentence in a cell for 23 hours a day. During that time, he was placed on an extended lockdown for fighting with other inmates — he didn’t do anything wrong, but it happened right around the time of a high-profile fight at the prison.

He never left his cell except for showers and brief exercise periods. And then one day, he decided to return to his cell quickly so as not to be late for dinner. He was on Rikers Island for less than a year, but he missed many of his favorite family members — his brother and his niece. He wanted to see them again, but he had to wait till lights-out before they could see him. He’d spend the quiet moments writing down everything that had happened in his day in a big notebook, reading it over and over again until lights-out came.

Now that he’s back home on Long Island, Jeffrey is working alongside Charney and Peters to get more people like him out of jail as fast as possible — even if they’ve been convicted of violent crimes. He hopes that if the prison system can change a few procedures, he and others like him can return to life after prison.

“The goal is to help people get their lives back on track,” Jeffrey says. “I want my kids to see me as a father who came home safely.”

It’s clear that Peters has taken Charney’s ideas and made some of his own adjustments — improvements that will undoubtedly be tested during Charney’s one year away from the New York City Department of Corrections. But he hasn’t yet fully perfected what Charney himself has called his “small strategy.”

“This is not a small strategy anymore,” Peters told Charney before he left. “You’re doing this with your name on it.”

For now, Peters is only at the beginning of his tenure as warden, and he’s met with some criticism from advocates for inmates who fear that his changes will tear down the progress that had been made under Longo. But there’s also a widespread assumption among many of those same people that someday, Charney’s “small strategy” will become something bigger: a single document that can be studied and adapted by corrections departments across the country. It may even influence policy makers in Washington, D.C., to address one of their country’s most pressing problems: prison reform.

For Charney, though, the important thing is that Peters signed up to work with him and others like him. “No matter what happened, he would’ve made those same changes,” Charney says.

Charney has spent 42 years working in New York City jails — and his next year working alongside Peters will be only the beginning of his final decade on Rikers Island. There’s still much to learn about how to safely reform a correctional system — how to make sure it doesn’t get too big or too small or too violent — and there’s no shortage of good people who want to work with what Charney has left behind.

“I hope that Mark’s accomplishments and his ideas won’t be lost to the world,” Charney says. “There’s so much you can do to make a difference in people’s lives. And I think there are many other corrections departments that will want to follow his lead.”

The second part of Charney’s plan for Rikers Island starts now. Correction officials — including Peters, who by then will be warden — have their work cut out for them in the months ahead: They’ve received almost no funding to expand the reentry program, and they have only three months left before they’re required by law to start building another cellblock. In the last few weeks, they’ve started sending out notices to inmates like Jeffery that they’re being moved from one part of Rikers to another.

The notices are only the beginning. It’s a start of many that needs to happen in order for Charney’s “small strategy” to reach its full potential. There are many more people like Jeffrey and Michele in other parts of the country where Charney has already worked: those who want out of jail and back into society. They are waiting for a call from prison officials with an offer that will change their lives forever. It will be up to them to make it become a reality — and unless they do, Rikers Island may never change and America’s jails may never reform.

Rikers Island Inmates as Enforcers

I’ve always believed that we, as a society, can get better. Our best is still yet to come. Where we are now is not the final destination for our communities and way of life in this country of ours.

Today I saw one small step in that quest for improvement in the form of two young inmates at Rikers Island Jail named Caine and Calvin guarding a door on the second floor of one section of the jail, with an inmate as young as 16 among them.
I watched these six teenagers with fascination from my vantage point just outside their eye line; they were scanning every person passing by on the ground floor below them, looking for something specific. What they were looking for I could not tell.
As the young men carried on their guard duty– and in one instance I saw one of them speak very close to a small child passing by on the ground floor–I was unsure if they were also checking to see if everyone following the child were old enough to be where they were in life.
One by one the inmates performed their duty, and were rewarded by getting to sit and rest as they waited for another to go on duty.
First, my mind told me to think about the youth of these young men, but then I thought about why they were chosen for this type of detail in their lives.
Calvin was the youngest of all, but the most mature of all, as he watched everyone who walked by. Caine and Calvin were the first to be relieved of their duty, and they sat down by a doorway on the second floor.
After observing them for at least 20 minutes, I watched them slowly turn around and survey their surroundings with their eyes closed. Slowly one of them would open one eye to take a glance around them before switching back to close both eyes. Then they switched over to just checking out the passing inmates on the ground floor from their vantage point on the second floor.
When they finished their survey of the jail area, they turned around and went back to their reclining post.
I had noticed that all but one of these young men was black. No doubt the reason that I had seen them was because the large numbers of people in jail on any given day are almost always black. I am not sure why this is so, but my gut told me it was a connection to be made in this situation.
What struck me most about this detail was how calm each one of them remained, even while performing a highly dangerous duty at the Rikers Island jail.
I had seen things like this once before on a work assignment in Oakland, where I had been a patrol officer for nine years.
On that occasion, I had been told that some of the juveniles who were not being put into detention center because they were too old to be affected by the conditions there were being given off-duty work or school-related tasks to do.
A few of them would come outside the jail after their shift was over and practice their boxing skills with each other.
I remember when one black 18-year-old wanted to learn how to box, so he and another youth friend of his got matching hand and gloves from the jail’s sports store. I got to watch as he shadow boxed all over the brand-new basketball court that was installed in the central area of the jail building.
So I watched this detail with fascination, because it reminded me of how much our youth is being affected by the conditions in which we have placed them.
What I saw here at Rikers Island jail today was a small group of kids suddenly being forced to take on a great deal of responsibility at once, and they were doing their job well.
I left knowing that something good had happened. Just maybe–and my gut tells me that would be right–just maybe this small step forward will encourage others to do better, too.

Statistics

Rikers Island is a facility located on an island in the East River, in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, New York City. The island is bordered by Queens Boulevard and Borden Avenue on its western and eastern sides respectively. The inmates at Rikers are generally people who have been charged with a crime who are being held in jail pending their trial or waiting to be sentenced following conviction.

This post will educate you about some important statistics surrounding Rikers Island, including how many violent crimes happen there per year (spoiler: not many) as well as why it’s so expensive for New York taxpayers to spend money maintaining this facility.

Why is Rikers Island so Expensive?

Rikers Island is expensive to maintain for a number of reasons. As the name suggests, it’s on an island, meaning space is limited. Furthermore, most, if not all buildings need substantial repair. The A and C building have been condemned, which means inmates in those buildings have been moved to other wings of the prison compound.

One of the biggest problems with Rikers Island is that there are no recreational facilities in place (such as a gym or pool) for inmates. The inmates are allowed one free hour of recreation a day. Most likely, the inmates are allowed to stay inside their cells during the free hour rather than being outside in the elements. This is all very expensive and a big waste of taxpayer money.

Who is Rikers Island Named After?

Rikers Island is named after Abraham Riker, who was an American lawyer and politician from New York City. Riker was born in Albany, New York on January 27th, 1749 to an influential family that owned property throughout what is now Staten Island and Manhattan Island.

Riker attended the local schools and later became a clerk for the Albany County Court. In 1771, Riker moved to New York City and quickly established a reputation as an attorney for defending loyalists during the American Revolution. Following the Revolution, Riker became a New York City Alderman in 1786 and, four years later, was elected Sheriff of New York City. Needless to say, he was very wealthy.

Here’s where things get interesting: Abraham Riker purchased all of what is now known as “Rikers Island” in October 1803 from Joseph Crommelin for $80 worth of gold coinage. At that point in time, there were no prisons on the island, just a military barracks. Riker then built six cellblocks on the island. Today, all eight of those cellblocks are open to the public free of charge (though parking can be difficult).

What is Rikers Island Used For Today?

Rikers Island has been used for a variety of purposes since its creation. It was originally used as a naval prison during the Civil War and was used as a place to house enemy prisoners during World War I. In 1980, the population was above 10,000 inmates but today only about 5,000 inmates reside at Rikers Island.

Rikers Island is now used for a variety of purposes. It’s a place to keep inmates in case they are sent upstate to help with fewer (or no) cells elsewhere. It’s also used to house arrestees, convicted criminals (who are awaiting their use in a court of law or sentencing) and people who have been sentenced to incarceration but have not yet been transported directly to prison.

This means that Rikers Island is also a place where inmates with issues (for instance, those who have been sentenced to only seven years in prison but who return with an additional 10 years tacked on because they had violated the terms of their probation). These inmates will be housed at Rikers Island to help with incarceration costs as well as to help keep the public safe.

Rikers Island Statistics

In 2013, there were 3,181 violent crimes reported on Rikers Island. There were also 3,716 cases of property crime reported in 2013. Of course, this does not include all the other types of crimes that take place at Rikers Island such as drug or weapon possession. A majority of people (65%) charged with a crime return to their community within 48 hours of being released from custody, but only 23% of people convicted of a felony are sent to jail each year.

  • The majority (85%) of detainees are pretrial defendants, either held on bail or remanded in custody . (en.wikipedia.org)
  • According to a 2015 study by the Vera Institute of Justice, it costs the city approximately $209,000 to detain one person for one year at Rikers Island. (en.wikipedia.org)
  • Since 1991, the Rikers population has dropped by more than 50%, when the average daily population was 21,688. (en.wikipedia.org)
  • New York City Department of Corrections reported that in fiscal year 2012 more than 14.4 percent of adolescents detained at Rikers Island between the ages of 16 and 18 were held in at least one period of solitary confinement (en.wikipedia.org)
  • More than 48 percent of adolescents at this institution have diagnosed mental health problems. (en.wikipedia.org)
  • According to The New York Times, some 129 inmates, 77% of whom were diagnosed as mentally ill, suffered “serious injuries” in altercations with prison guards over an 11-month period in 2013. (en.wikipedia.org)
  • About 40 percent of the Rikers population has been diagnosed with a mental illness. (grist.org)
  • And the overwhelming majority of the people incarcerated on the island about 90 percent are black or Latino. (grist.org)
  • According to multiple sources, including city Comptroller Scott Stringer (who mentioned it at a panel discussion in November 2015) and people incarcerated at Rikers at the time, there was enough flooding to cause damage. (grist.org)
  • According to Board of Correction member Bryanne Hamill, who discussed the issue at the March 2016 meeting, the roof of the school in RNDC is also currently leaking. (grist.org)

Sources

Rikers Island Island in the East River between Queens and the Bronx that is home to New York City’s main jail complex Rikers Island ( / ˈ r aɪ k ər z / ) is a 413.17-acre (167.20-hectare) island in the East River Queens the Bronx that is home to New York City jail Named after Abraham Rycken, who took possession of the island in 1664, the island was originally under 100 acres (40 ha) in size, but has since grown to more than 400 acres (160 ha). (en.wikipedia.org)

In a 2017 report titled “Smaller, Safer, Fairer: A roadmap to closing Rikers Island“, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his intention to close the jail complex at Rikers Island within 10 years, if the city’s crime rates stay low and the population at Rikers were reduced from 10,000 to 5,000. (en.wikipedia.org)

Neither the people incarcerated there, nor the correction officers working there, can escape it. “The smell alone would torture you,” says Candie Hailey-Means, who was incarcerated at Rikers until May 2015. “It smells like sewer, mixed with fertilizer, mixed with death.” Hailey-Means was sent to Rikers on Feb. 22, 2012, when she was 28 years old. (grist.org)

They found that 86% of correctional staff wore masks correctly, while inmates in common areas were seen wearing masks correctly only 17% of the time, auditors reported “Board staff observed people in custody not practicing social distancing, as they were sitting or standing close together in communal spaces such as dayrooms, especially around TV sets, phones, main doors, and during meals,” according to a report of the agency’s findings. (cnn.com)

Officials encourage detainees to wear masks and practice social distancing, Thorne told CNN, but “we cannot force people in custody to comply.” New York City has pledged to close down the troubled Rikers Island jail facility within the next few years. (cnn.com)

At trial it no longer worked One of the largest correctional facilities in the world, Rikers has become a symbol of brutality in the largest US city. (theguardian.com)

Published NY teen jails ‘violent and unsafe’ Published Notorious New York prison to close Published From penthouse to Rikers Island jail cell Published Epstein jail ‘a gulag’ in lower Manhattan Published Obama bans solitary jail for juveniles Published Public invited to choose name of new ‘mega prison’ Published Q&A: Age of criminal responsibility (bbc.com)

A raid found conditions to be abysmal at the jail, and so it was closed permanently in 1935. “The original intention to move to Rikers was to clean up Roosevelt Island,” Morris pointed out to me, laughing. “Oh, the irony.” But trouble came quickly: In 1939, a Bronx court found Rikers to be nearly unlivable . (vice.com)

THE BAD OLD DAYS When I asked Robin Kay Miller a retired correctional officer who worked for two decades in the city’s jails and is the author of an upcoming account about her job the simple question “what is Rikers Island?”, she responded effortlessly, like she had heard the question time and time again. “A hellhole.” “It’s seriously like going to hell,” she continued. “The minute you cross that bridge from Queens” a passage known as the Bridge of Pain “you can feel the fire.” In 1983, Ms. (vice.com)

Existing detention facilities in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn would be remodeled in a more modern, humane design a model that also would be used to construct a new jail at an NYPD tow impound lot in the Bronx. (amny.com)

In 2014, the Department of Justice released a 79-page report that found “a pattern and practice of conduct at Rikers that violates the constitutional rights of adolescent inmates.” The report noted that young inmates endured “serious physical harm from the rampant use of unnecessary and excess force by DOC staff” and also suffered from violence inflicted by fellow inmates. (insider.com)

Officials said masks are available for inmates as needed, in every housing unit. “No staff member and no person in custody is being required to reuse masks,” Brann said. (cnn.com)

Living and working in the jails People in custody tell CNN they still sleep in beds that are a few feet apart, share phones that are not cleaned between uses, have trouble getting new masks and access to soap. (cnn.com)

DOC manages 10 facilities housing people in custody, 8 of which are located on Rikers Island. (www1.nyc.gov)

Kross Center (AMKC), George Motchan Detention Center (GMDC), North Infirmary Command (NIC), Rose M. (en.wikipedia.org)

The North Infirmary Command, which used to be called the Rikers Island Infirmary, is used to house inmates requiring extreme protective custody , inmates with special health needs, mentally ill inmates, and inmates undergoing drug detoxification. (en.wikipedia.org)

Ronald Spear In 2012, 52-year-old Ronald Spear was awaiting trial on Rikers Island, and due to kidney failure, he was detained in the North Infirmary Command. (en.wikipedia.org)

For two of those years, Browder was held in solitary confinement or punitive segregation. (en.wikipedia.org)

Published NY teen jails ‘violent and unsafe’ Published Notorious New York prison to close Published From penthouse to Rikers Island jail cell Published Epstein jail ‘a gulag’ in lower Manhattan Published Obama bans solitary jail for juveniles (bbc.com)

Notorious New York prison to close Obama bans solitary jail for juveniles From penthouse to Rikers Island jail cell Epstein jail ‘a gulag’ in lower Manhattan Other critics said the six-year timeline was unrealistic, claiming that the plan to shrink the jail population to a combined daily capacity of 3,300 prisoners would mean more violent criminals on the streets. “It’s not clear how they’re going to get these numbers and it’s politically driven,” Seth Barron, from the conservative think tank NYC Initiative, told the Associated Press. “It’s a big risk because we’ve already taken all the nonviolent people out of Rikers,” he said. (bbc.com)

Facilities Overview The Department provides for the care and custody of people ordered held by the courts and awaiting trial or who are convicted and sentenced to one year or less of jail time. (www1.nyc.gov)

The jail earned a variety of nicknames over the years, including Gladiator School, Torture Island, and, when the weather was warm, the Oven – because its concrete floors and steel doors soaked in the summer heat. (bbc.com)

Conversion to jail The city expressed a desire to open a jail for men on Rikers Island as early as 1925, in order to replace their overburdened and dilapidated jail on Welfare Island, now Roosevelt Island ; the jail was opened in 1932. (en.wikipedia.org)

 

Rikers Island Jail Visiting Hours