Most positive cases were coming from new arrestees entering the system, Chief Medical Officer Ross MacDonald said Tuesday. Most people held at Rikers Island are awaiting trial. I was arrested for being a passenger in a car that had some stolen items inside and remanded to Rikers. The United Nations equates more than 15 days in solitary confinement with torture. I’d go back up and make sure they got a magazine. Husamudeen said his union and others that represent jail workers have sued the city twice to get more protective equipment for workers, among other issues. The city's Board of Correction began pushing to release thousands of inmates as soon as possible in mid-March, even before Tyson's death. I think I also wrote that if they ever legalized drugs—at the time we had 20,000 inmates on Rikers—we’d have eight people left. can you help me?” I didn’t say this to them, but the reality was you had to get arrested, take some kind of a plea to get into a drug treatment program. Correction workers also warn their jobs are more unsafe than ever, as the number of employees with the coronavirus continues to climb. But I would not proceed if I felt that the conversation could be overheard. He said, “Frankly, it’s your interventions that make this place manageable.”. "You know, we'll be fluid and adapt to conditions as more people start coming out. Gonzalez said, "I just got slapped while my hands were on the wall, right in the … I left Rikers for a few years. "Every day, correction officers suit up and go in. One of her duties was to assess the mental health of prisoners in the “bing”—the nickname for the five-story modern dungeon of solitary confinement cells, with 100 human beings per floor. I've never seen a film like this before—it is the raw truth of what it is like to be on Rikers Island. She looked to NASW and there was nothing. Know that there are organizations that are supporting change and try to plug into them. And the punishment is horrendous. [Then] they could claim an injury and get time off. As an individual you are powerless. As the book illustrates, social workers and healthcare staff in such scenarios face profound ethical dilemmas. HR: Can you tell me about STEP, the program for people with drug addictions at Rikers Island? "We cannot flatten the curve if we ignore the crisis that exists in our jails," De Avila told CNN. Among those moving in and out of jails are more than 11,000 Department of Correction employees. "The most important intervention was a concerted effort at depopulation, which allowed us, I think, to do much better than many systems around the country despite having a broader epidemic that was more severe than anywhere in the country.". Department of Correction officials said Tuesday they began giving masks to all people in custody on April 3, plus cleaning supplies and soap for free. You had to make sure the meds didn’t break down. An expert on tobacco harm reduction, she provides training and consultation on mental health, nicotine use and THR, and in 2016 organized the first Tobacco Harm Reduction Conference in the US. You’re going to deliberately do this to get time off of work for Christmas?” They said they were kidding, but they weren’t. On April 5, Michael Tyson, who was incarcerated on Rikers Island but was being treated for coronavirus by Correctional Health Services at a hospital, became the first inmate on Rikers Island to die from complications of the virus. "We feel a degree of comfort in having the PPE (personal protective equipment) to try to keep us a little bit safer," Husamudeen said. To get a handle on the reality, over two weeks in April, the city's Board of Correction, which oversees the city's jail system, had staffers observe inmates and correctional staff using surveillance footage. And there are many women I spoke with who said, “Jail saved my life.” Women who had mental health problems and used drugs. Every time I was called to one of the cells for a “situation,” my knees would start to wobble; I had a bodily reaction. We are not benign bystanders. I think we are in very sad shape ethically. In social settings, my mind would drift to a horror scene in the jail while people were talking. The conditions inside EMTC are getting worse as more staff on Rikers test positive for the coronavirus. I spoke to one man who was in his 70s and was arrested for murder, never been in jail before. It helped them with structure. People banging their heads, the feces smearing, the desperation, the sweat, the heat. The Department of Corrections ran it, it wasn’t run by the Mental Health department. But this man had no idea what he was doing. 89 % of the detainees in NYC jails cannot afford to post bail at arraignment. After close to a month of investigation, authorities now feel confident enough to confirm: Somebody probably did those drugs. I kept everything very milquetoast. Her stunning, award-winning debut book, Lockdown on Rikers: Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York’s Notorious Jail, published in 2015, opened many eyes and strengthened the growing #CloseRikers movement. You had to make sure the meds didn’t break down. Be aware of what’s going on on the outside. Ultimately, a burned-out and jaded Buser resigned, realizing that she could no longer make a difference. There is, somewhere inside the Rikers Island Correctional Facility, a safe stocked with with a stash of ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana. MB: Go for it if this something that calls you. I can’t do that. When things were running well on Rikers in terms of healthcare, they would be seen several times a week by an individual clinician, weekly by a psychiatrist for medication, and almost daily for group therapy until they could go back to general population. Advocates and a watchdog agency for the jail system contend that while correction officers wear masks, inmates don't nearly as often. Some of these drugs went missing. He began an affair with her. FOUNDER, JUSTLEADERSHIPUSA. The program was run by correction officers and the Captains. Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte acknowledged that changing the culture of violence will take time. They wrap their faces with do-rags and T-shirts when masks are not available and use shampoo to clean themselves when they can't get soap. “The blood is trickling down into his eyes and I realize that we’re well beyond therapeutic dialogue.”. "We're the epicenter of the epicenter.". Glenn E. Martin. ‘Please miss, please,’ he whispers. But for the most part these were nonviolent offenses. One of them, a physician assistant, wrote up an incident report with an honest appraisal of a person’s injuries that said the man was beaten by guards. I remember speaking to a man, his wife had just had a baby and they needed diapers. It’s horrendous for the most part. the nickname for the five-story modern dungeon of solitary confinement cells, with 100 human beings per floor. With Jon Alpert, Jackie, Jimmy Mirabel, Miguel 'Chino' Santiago. It once housed more than 20,000. They increased cleaning. And I would say: These charts aren’t confidential. During the Civil War, Rikers Island served as a military training facility. "It was inevitable that coronavirus was going to get to Rikers, and once it did, it would be a complete disaster. Rikers Island, a series of buildings built on an island spanning over 400 acres, is the main correctional area that serves all of New York City. An awareness of the system, of bail, that people were innocent of the crimes they were charged with. Those recommended for release were on Rikers Island on a pretrial basis, meaning they had not been convicted of crimes, were serving city sentences of 1 year or less, or were there because of state parole holds, board member Dr. Bobby Cohen told CNN. MB: They are compromised. HR: You talk in the book about doing individual and group therapy. I think it’s wrong. Visitors are required to check the timings and regulations before visiting the prison. In the weeks since the city's first confirmed coronavirus case, inmates on Rikers said they've been using whatever they can get their hands on to protect themselves from Covid-19 behind bars. The smell of vomit and feces hangs in the hot, thick air … I can see the inmates’ faces—dark-skinned, young—pressed up against the windows, eyes wild with panic. Helen Redmond: How do you square this: If you don’t come to Rikers Island with a psychiatric diagnosis you will probably leave with one? I don’t believe that this practice could continue in its current form without the participation of health workers. Rikers Island, one of the largest correctional facilities in the world, floats in the East River between the Bronx and LaGuardia Airport, where it houses around 10,000 inmates on any given day. So there was a big push to get them out of the cell, take them down to first floor where we could meet with them privately. It was during the time that Giuliani was mayor. It’s going to take a heightened awareness around this. Officials said masks are available for inmates as needed, in every housing unit. Diane Sawyer went inside the unit called punitive segregation, where inmates are locked up for up to 23 hours a day. I asked, what is this poor man doing on Rikers Island? Drug addiction is so pervasive and so devastating, and I don’t think we have anything near the scale of what we need to address the problem. Forrester is concerned correctional agencies are understaffed and ill-equipped to enforce their own policies, she said. You said in your book that people are offered a lot of medication. I saw retribution to people who pointed the finger and it was horrible. I’d go back up and make sure they got a magazine. As someone who spent time on Rikers as a young person, I found that every single story rang true to me. Worse—and that’s all wrong. 38 % of cases in NYC have bail set at $1,000 or less. Know that there are organizations that are supporting change and try to plug into them. "If I don't have gloves and I'm touching all this stuff I still have to do my job either way.". New York officials worried that the city’s notorious jail system on Rikers Island could become a powder keg inside the epicenter of the pandemic. When I came back I had an awareness that I didn’t have as a student. I saw a lot of men who were in jail for dealing and selling drugs. HR: How did it affect you personally to go into that environment? But I was determined not to forget, and if it took me the rest of my life, I’m going to tell the story as best as I could. That’s changed now. Terrence Pendergrass, the supervisor of the unit, was told by a correction officer of Echevarria's condition. more than 15 days in solitary confinement with torture. Michelle Alexander. Instead, Buser became an advocate for prison reform on the outside. As he crossed the bridge over to the island, a prison guard told him to "get ready for Gladiator School". Like so many, I wanted to make a difference and I felt like I was. "Sometimes, we clean the phones with alcohol pads. I was angry at what the hell was going on, balanced with the good that I was doing in my groups with women who had HIV and with gang members. It was called El Rio. Now that being said, after you wrote up your charts after the session, charts should be confidential. Seventy percent of the agency's facilities are less than half full and the number of symptomatic, quarantined inmates was decreasing, Commissioner Cynthia Brann said Tuesday at a public meeting. They all had waiting lists 10 miles long. I would think that what they were discussing was so trite. The jail is full of poor people with mental health and drug problems, homeless people, and survivors of trauma and gang violence. Healthcare workers, social workers who work in there, we are an integral part of this practice. Everyone had a drug addiction. Some of the women benefited from it. He said, “Frankly, it’s your interventions that make this place manageable.”. But positive cases of coronavirus among correctional staff continue to increase. And all of my preconceived notions about our legal system started going out the window. This involved going to the receiving room, where buses were coming in with people, and accessing right there whether they should be placed in the mental observation unit. “I hesitate, dreading the walk through the gauntlet of misery. As a Cop, I Know Police Contempt for Drug Users Is Still Widespread—And It Comes From the Top, With the Focus on Opioids, Don’t Forget About Meth and Cocaine, Virginia Court Decides Homeless “Habitual Drunkards” Don’t Deserve Due Process. The Debate Around America’s Outlier Status, Nicotine 101: The Truth About What It Is and What it Does, Booty-Bumping Meth: Harm Reduction for an Under-Discussed Practice, Here’s What a Legal Market for Cocaine Could Look Like, COVID and Vaping: A Perfect Storm of Misleading Science and Media. Detained people rely on COs to bring them to medical clinics and make sure they get … How could we put someone like him on Rikers Island? Wayne Pritchard, 51, was held in Rikers for a parole violation and released on April 27 after arguing he was at risk of developing complications of the virus. Then a man named Frederic Reamer who does work around the Code of Ethics [for NASW] said that when it comes to solitary confinement, NASW doesn’t take a stand. A 2013 report by Mother Jones ranked Rikers Island as one of the ten worst correctional facilities in the US. When I met him he was counting potato chips to see if there was the right amount in the bag. Let them know someone cared about them. Inmates told CNN phones are constantly in use. From a practical standpoint you were forced to have conversations that weren’t private. WATCH THE FULL EPISODE OF NIGHTLINE: - A Hidden America: Inside Rikers Island. MB: It’s utterly disproportionate. "It's a clear indication our containment strategies are working," Brann said. And with a focus on creating more space for social distancing, the city pushed through the release from its jails of more than 2,600 people considered at low risk to commit a crime and high risk to contract the disease, with many of the inmates gaining their release, Despite these efforts, critics say there is still not enough sanitizing, social distancing and wearing of masks to stamp out an outbreak among 362 people currently incarcerated, "Jail is inherently not a place where you can socially distance. MB: When I was at Rikers there were 10 jails, and each had a clinic. I never expected to be in a situation like that personally or professionally. An NYPD official told CNN the department voiced concerns about inmates with violent backgrounds that the city wanted to release that, but that its concerns weren't listened to. And I started to see what these people were up against. He had a very low IQ. In the weeks since, correctional officials handed out masks. That’s huge. "There are a number of people who are leaving these jails and coming back to our community.". And when my charts were reviewed I was sometimes criticized for not being specific. Women who were more sensitive found it too much with the screaming and shouting because there was a real drill sergeant feel to it. And some of the people I’ve worked with have told me they felt safer in jail than out on the streets or in their homes. According to The New York Times, "... the captain told the officer not to bother him unless 'there was a dead body,' the complaint said". Should social workers refuse to work in these correctional settings when our Code of Ethics, as I understand it, is so compromised? We did have booths, there was plexiglass, and there was an officer on the other side and she was pretty decent. But by the time I wound up on the “bing” where my profession calls upon me to uphold the dignity of human life and I’m looking at someone who is now babbling incoherently, I’m working on treating him, assessing suicide risk, it’s a real dilemma. A 2013 report by Mother Jones ranked Rikers Island as one of the ten worst correctional facilities in the US. What initially shocked me didn’t have such a disturbing affect just a couple of weeks later. Inside New York's notorious Rikers Island jails, 'the epicenter of the epicenter' of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m not high right now, I will be getting high, I have this window right now—can you help me?” I didn’t say this to them, but the reality was you had to get arrested, take some kind of a plea to get into a drug treatment program. MB: Drugs were everything. "We took T-shirts to cover our mouths.". The Department of Correction told CNN it cleans phones every two hours. Try to hold onto your values. The “opioid crisis” has dominated drug conversations for at least the past decade, while ... Not even Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, once referred to as “Wall ... . New York City has pledged to close down the troubled Rikers Island jail facility within the next few years. There were some beautiful moments but there was this growing anger anD the scales started to tip. Contact NYC DOC - Rikers Island - North Infirmary Command (NIC) to schedule an appointment with your inmate and to check the time slot, as the inmates are allowed one visit per day. But Claudia Forrester, a jail services advocate with Brooklyn Defender Services, said she continues to get calls from inmates claiming they don't have access to supplies they need to keep themselves safe during the pandemic. is an explication of how people with the best of intentions inside correctional institutions try to help the most vulnerable. New York City's Department of Correction officials pushed back on some of these claims, arguing that the department's efforts are working. Why does someone have to get involved in law enforcement, has to get handcuffed as opposed to going to a program, knocking on the door and saying, “I need help” and being admitted? They ignored us until our numbers increased and we kept pushing them. We see aftermath of violence, different units, a drug search in one of the prison units, judge visits etc. I left. Most had a mental observation unit, a chief physician and a warden. Buser worked at Rikers Island in the 1990s, during the reign of “tough on crime” Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the crack era which drove racist mass incarceration. “When the knob buzzes, I pull the door open and step into what feels like a furnace,” she recounted in the gut-wrenching prologue to her book. In October 2019, the New York City council voted to close down the jail complex by 2026.