Street Soldiers TV: Should Rikers Island Be Closed or Reformed?

By July 17, 2017Fox 5, Street Soldiers

In June, Fox 5 went inside Rikers Island for an exclusive town hall with Fat Joe, inmates and the Department of Correction. We were shown the best. But we weren’t allowed to see a lot more.

A former inmate, now free on bail with an ankle bracelet, is awaiting trial for attempted murder. He told me they’re dehumanized from Day 1.

No one denies the do-or-die culture. COBA, the correction officers’ union, said slashings and stabbings of guards are increasing.

A Rikers Island correction officer is breaking his silence so people know what is really going on. He said the violence has to stop. Fox 5 is protecting his identity for his safety. He said an inmate stabbed him three times in the ear. The officer went back to work at Rikers after treatment, but he hasn’t been the same, he told us.

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a 51-page report on how Rikers could be closed. Overpopulation is one factor in the violence. Another is inmate idle time. Job training programs like those in G.M.D.C. have certified more than 1,500 inmates, a fraction of the jail’s roughly 8,000 inmates.

Deputy Commissioner Winette Jackson said positive change takes time.

“A large part of our job, our mission, is to really help, correct and rehabilitate the individuals who are in the custody of the department,” she said.

The start of a culture shift is seeing some improvement in inmate-officer contacts in G.M.D.C. The programs are in demand. There aren’t enough to go around.

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