Rikers Island and Irene

A flurry of concern on Twitter yesterday & today about Bloomberg's announcement that Rikers Island would not be evacuated as Hurricane Irene headed towards NYC.


  1. It began with an offhand response by Mayor Bloomberg to a reporter's question at a news conference:

  2. Yesterday & today, many on Twitter have expressed anger about the city's seemingly callous disregard for the 12,000 detainees on Rikers Island (using varying levels of profanity).
  3. And who forget the awful results of the failure to evacuate the city jail in New Orleans in advance of Katrina?

  4. Others did some research and observed that Rikers looks to be above expected flooding levels.

  5. More concerning, though, was the revelation that New York doesn't seem to have any contingency plan for how it would evacuate Rikers if it *did* need to. Solitary Watch quoted a New York Times report that "no hypothetical evacuation plan for the roughly 12,000 inmates that the facility may house on a given day even exists."

  6. What if there were a stronger hurricane, or a terrorist attack, or some other emergency that did require evacuation of Rikers? Surely the city should have a set of plans in place. Plus, as @LilianaSegura pointed out, it's not just Rikers:
  7. In response to the usual Internet riffraff making inhumane comments like "let them drown," there were two responses. First, those at Rikers are mainly pretrial detainees, low-level convicts, and juveniles (this is not a state prison, so it doesn't hold prisoners serving long, post-conviction sentences). @JessieNYC and some of her interlocutors explained how zero-tolerance school policies and the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policing strategy disproportionately funnel black and Latino youth into Rikers, as well as people who are poor. Here are some of those Tweets:

  8. Second, as @LilianaSegura pointed out, even if everyone at Rikers *were* a convicted murderer the city still has a responsibility to take care of those in its custody. Indeed, constitutional and international law require prison and jail administrators to demonstrate a certain level of concern for prisoners' safety.