Closing Rikers Island Is a Matter of Life and Death

EDITOR’S NOTE:Every week we post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column on WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Isaabdul Karim was not sentenced to death. In fact, he was never convicted. But after the father of two was charged with nonviolent parole and sent to Rikers Island, he was released on September 19 is the eleventh person to die in a New York prison this year.

As a wheelchair user with health complications, Karim was held in a reception cell for 10 days without adequate access to food or medicine. His lawyers called for early release in a hearing that was interrupted when Karim suffered an asthma attack; Before Karim could return to court, he contracted Covid-19 and died.

Karim is just a victim of Riker’s dire condition. Almost 6,000 people are detained there, most of them awaiting trial. The inmates have no food, water, toilets, showers, or access to lawyers and doctors. And chronic mismanagement – staff shifts are still organized on index cards – has resulted in the prison’s inability to treat hundreds of staff who call in sick, even though the officer-to-inmate ratio is well above the national average lies.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

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