|August 27, 2011||No. 15|
Locked Up and Left Behind: New York's Prisoners and Hurricane Irene
While not directly related to the recent hunger strike in California prisons, due to the compelling and potentially tragic nature of what could soon happen to prisoners at Rikers' Island in New York City, we are including the following text by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway of Solitary Watch. Email Mayor Bloomberg to protest his decision not to evacuate Rikers Island. http://www.nyc.gov/portal/ sit
“We are not evacuating Rikers Island,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference this afternoon. Bloomberg annouced a host of extreme measures being taken by New York City in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, including a shutdown of the public transit system and the unprecedented mandatory evacuation of some 250,000 people from low-lying areas. But in response to a reporter’s question, the mayor stated in no uncertain terms (and with more than a hint of annoyance) that one group of New Yorkers on vulnerable ground will be staying put.
New York City is surrounded by small islands and barrier beaches, and a glance at the city’s evacuation map reveals all of them to be in Zone A (already under a mandatory evacuation order) or Zone B–all, that is, save one. Rikers Island, which lies in the waters between Queens and the Bronx, is not highlighted at all, meaning it is not to be evacuated under any circumstances.
According to the New York City Department of Corrections’ own website, more than three-quarters of Rikers Island’s 400 acres are built on landfill–which is generally thought to be more vulnerable to natural disasters. Its ten jails have a capacity of close to 17,000 inmates, and normally house at least 12,000, including juveniles and large numbers of prisoners with mental illness–not to mention pre-trial detainees who have yet to be convicted of any crime.
We were not able to reach anyone at the NYC DOC for comment–but the New York Times‘s City Room blog reported: “According to the city’s Department of Correction, no hypothetical evacuation plan for the roughly 12,000 inmates that the facility may house on a given day even exists. Contingencies do exist for smaller-scale relocations from one facility to another.”
For a warning of what can happen to prisoners in a hurricane we need only look back at Katrina, and the horrific conditions endured by inmates at Orleans Parish Prison in New Orleans. According to a report produced by the ACLU:
Historic California Assembly Hearing on Solitary Confinement
Recent Media Coverage
In the US:
Saturday August 27th from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m: End The Torture in Pelican Bay SHU Action. NBC Building 225 Broadway, San Diego, CA