Rikers Island's Women's Jail is named after my grandmother. She Wouldn't Be Proud Of Herself. The convicts at "Rosie's" are abused and are now infected with the coronavirus. My family and I were thrilled in 1988 when New York City named the new Rikers Island women's jail after my grandmother, Rose M. Fenske.
However, we were soon disappointed to learn that not only was she denied access to her mail but also that of other inmate families. No one from the city government had bothered to notify them that their loved ones were being held in prison.
My grandmother had been sent to the Women's Jail because she was too poor to pay her bail. The judge had decided that she wasn't able to afford a lawyer so she refused to give up her job as a nurse's aide at Huntington Hospital to go free. Since she was black and unemployed, she knew she wouldn't get a fair trial.
She spent the next few years of her life waiting for her case to be heard while fighting off drug addicts and prostitutes who tried to steal from her or use her room for prostitution. Many times, they would beat her up when she refused to give them money. One woman even put a gun to my grandmother's head during one of these robberies.
The only thing that saved my grandmother from further abuse was a letter she received from a local church group who had heard about her situation.
Rikers Island is one of the world's largest prisons; it is located on a 413-acre (167-hectare) island between Queens and the Bronx and houses around 7,000 convicts, down from more than 20,000 in the 1990s.
Conditions at Rikers are extremely harsh by normal standards. Most prisoners will be held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. There are no outdoor facilities on the island, just a small yard with some barbed wire and a few trees. Prisoners can order food through an electronic kiosk but they cannot leave to go shopping or visit friends.
Almost all crimes that lead to incarceration at Rikers Island are considered violent offenses. However there are cases where participants in drug trafficking schemes have been sent to prison at Rikers Island.
In May 2012, then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he was shutting down Rikers Island Jail because of concerns about overcrowding. The city has begun working with local communities to find alternatives for those inmates who will be released.
About two-thirds of those incarcerated at Rikers Island are men. One reason for this is that women usually do not commit serious crimes while their partners stand trial for these offenses. In addition, women tend to receive shorter sentences than men for similar offenses.
Rikers Island was set to close in 2026, despite long-standing petitions for its abolition. New York City has now postponed the execution until 2027. The notorious jail facility, was established in 1932, has a history of mistreatment and neglect of its inmates.
In 2008, the New York Times reported that the population of Rikers Island was more than 800 men and women. The majority of inmates were there awaiting trial; some were being held on $1 million bail or less. Approximately 70 people are locked up on the island at any given time.
Rikers Island is a small but densely populated island located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, New York. At nearly 14 square miles, it is smaller than Central Park but has one public hospital, two psychiatric hospitals, and nine prisons. It is also home to the United States' largest wildlife refuge.
In 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Rikers Island would remain open as planned but would no longer accept new inmates. He said this was necessary so that resources could be shifted to rehabilitate existing inmates and help them find housing and employment when they leave prison. This plan was intended to reduce violence by shifting some of the burden from overcrowded jails toward under resourced communities. However, several groups have filed lawsuits challenging this plan. These cases are still ongoing as of January 2017.
Rikers Island has a reputation for violence, as well as abuse and neglect of inmates, which has drawn increased media and judicial scrutiny, resulting in numerous rulings against the New York City government and numerous assaults by inmates on uniformed and civilian staff, resulting in often serious injuries. The New York Times described it as "a maximum-security facility designed for the incarceration of young men without close family connections or financial resources, yet plagued by gang warfare and corruption."
In 2004, the New York Civil Liberties Union published an article stating that there were "no fewer than 30 incidents of torture by New York City police officers" over the previous decade. Many other reports of abuse have surfaced over the years.
There are about 7,000 people incarcerated at Rikers Island at any given time, with more than 80 percent being pretrial detainees. In addition to ordinary crime, those detained include individuals who are mentally ill and require hospitalization, children removed from their parents, and foreign nationals awaiting deportation. Women make up less than 10 percent of the population.
The city's main jail, known as the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, is located on Rikers Island. It was built in 1982 to replace older facilities that were deemed inadequate to house such a large number of people. As many as 9,000 people may be held at Donovan at any one time.
Donovan is divided into five areas called pods.