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Rikers Island prisoners locked up and left behind

Rikers Island prisoners locked up and left behind

Solitary Watch reports

“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.

The New York TImes has the story in its Q and A on Hurricane Irene.

Q. What evacuation procedures are in place for prisoners?

— Posted by @In_Struggle

A. The city does not plan to evacuate Rikers Island, the mayor said. 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.

North Carolina has moved hundreds of inmates in advance of the storm.

Any word from religious leaders?


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I think that, instead of reacting to one blog’s obviously agenda-based approach, it is best to consider the facts, as I am certain (as a NYC resident) did the administration. Not that I do not think that the questions are not worth asking, and I do concede it is disturbing at best that there is not a general evacuation plan. But the situation did required neither overreaction nor an evacuation plan in this case.

Rikers is at an elevation of 20-40′ above sea level. Roosevelt Island, another island alluded to in the article, is at 10-15′ (Zone C, none of which was evacuated). La Guardia, though very nearby Rikers, is 1-10′ (if you fly into LGA, you can clearly tell Rikers is at a much higher elevation). Astoria, in Queens, is at 15-20′. Reports claim 36′ of extra water would be necessary to see Rikers affected to evacuation point. That was neither reached nor expected.

I imagine the DOJ will tell you the same.

Altitude map:


Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

Also, emails can be sent to the Department of Justice at

This is an atrocity!

-Cullin R. Schooley

Ann Fontaine

If you want to call and protest:

Department of Justice: Office of Attorney General Eric Holder: (202) 514-2001.

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