HEAR IT: Prisoners on Rikers Island stage hunger strike against inhuman conditions

Imprisoned people on Rikers Island have staged a hunger strike on Rikers Island due to abhorrent living conditions.

According to Christopher Boyle, a lawyer who also serves as director of data research and policy for the New York County Defenders Service, those imprisoned in the Robert N. Davoren Complex (RNDC) on the island have stopped eating in protest of it reported. to be hellish and inhuman conditions.

Boyle first heard about the hunger strike when he visited a client on Rikers Island on January 10 for another case when his office received an email with two voicemails from inmates describing the deplorable conditions and their hunger strike efforts.

“So the answering machine basically left a message that hinted that there was a hunger strike going on due to conditions that have gotten so badly aggravated at the Rikers, at least in their area of ​​the Rikers, which is the RNDC. It got them to believe that there was nothing more they could do and they tried to do this what they referred to as a non-violent hunger strike protest to get some attention, ”Boyle told amNewYork Metro.

Boyle explained that he sat down with one of the hunger strikers on January 10, who confirmed that the hunger strike included four dormitories with about 50 people each – about 200 participants in total. The strikers ate their last meal on the night of January 7, and as of the end of January 10, they have missed their 12th planned meal.

“They said they’ve reached the point now that the officers came in without food and then asked them, ‘Do you want us to bring the food?’ “And they said, ‘No,’ and then the officer left. ‘ .

The Danish Prison and Probation Service rejects, however, that such a hunger strike takes place in the facility, but that the participants refuse to eat institutional food.

“There is no hunger strike. A group of prisoners refused institutional food and ate commissioner food instead. The duty officer is committed to them and addresses their concerns, and our staff has worked tirelessly to keep our facilities and everyone who works and lives in them safe, a DOC spokesman said in a statement. “

The DOC also boasts a robust and effective appeals system that detainees can contact (via free 311 calls) at any time during the lockout to express their concerns. All facility-based complaints are sent directly to the duty officer’s office for an inquiry. According to preliminary complaint data, the DOC also says they are already aware of these concerns and is addressing them through the system designed for that purpose.

The voices of the prisoners

The DOC statement contradicts voicemails obtained by amNewYork Metro, where prisoners on the island state that they have now missed over 12 meals. Boyle says he has received about 14 messages regarding the hunger strike, adding that during his 30-year tenure, conditions on Rikers Island are the worst he has ever seen.

Boyle explained that the RNDC complex contains about 50 beds per room. dormitory put together in a metal-like facility, which he compared to a metallic shipping container without insulation. He adds that when the temperature drops, prisoners are stuck in the cold.

“So there is no one on the floor in the dormitories who can basically settle disputes or be in the way when there are fights. There is only one person in the bubble, the bubble is the area where they open and close doors, but apparently this facility is a little different from some of the other facilities you may know, in the sense that there are no individual prison cells, “Boyle said.

The freezing temperatures inside Rikers Island, the lack of mail, no personal visits from any family members, not being produced in court and being denied video conferencing with lawyers are just a handful of the injustices shared with Boyle.

In a received answering machine, a jailed person told that his dorm has been closed 24 hours, seven days a week for the last 15 days due to what appears to be a COVID-19 positivity case; However, CDC guidelines have reduced this quarantine period to five days for those who are not symptomatic. In addition, the meals are delivered directly to their dormitory, as the detainees have not been given access to a common dining area.

“We are a concerned group of residents at Rikers Facility, especially the RNDC building, while we were talking, we just wanted to tell you that on Friday, midnight on January 7, we decided to go on a DOC meal hunger strike, non-violent, and the reason for this is because our needs are not being met, ”a jailed person said over an answering machine to Boyle at the New York County Defenders Service.

The individual begins to list several complaints starting with lack of timely medical treatment, no access to the legal library services (which he says hinders their fair course), limited to no items in the commissioner, mail is either lost or severely delayed, court days are constantly postponed , and that they are generally unable to receive any kind of communication in a timely manner, leaving prisoners in “limbo”.

“So, as you can see, the city is still open for business, but Rikers Island is closed. We do not get visits, whether it is regular visits or lawyer visits, which also continue to hamper our fair run,” the individual said.

‘That’s all we ask for is just a little help’

Another voicemail was sent by Ervin Bowins, who is also imprisoned on Rikers Island, begging Boyle to get the message to the media and the mayor’s office demanding humane conditions.

“We are on hunger strike and we have a list of reasonable things we would like to bring to the table so we can get things rolling, such as a law library, leisure and psychiatry and that kind of medical stuff. What we can not afford. Mandatory minimum standards for a human being, “Bowins said,” that’s all we ask for is just a little help. “

The environment within the facility has long been criticized by elected officials in the five boroughs, especially after they visited them in September, but now the island has deteriorated to such a point that prisoners refuse to eat until the problems are resolved.

Boyle also expressed concern that they were being held in jail by staff for the hunger strike and even said he received allegations that his phone number was blocked from inside the jail.

“I started getting phone calls from family members and said my phone was considered restricted,” Boyle said.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. declaration:

“We are in solidarity with the brave people imprisoned on Rikers Island who have resorted to a hunger strike to protest the deplorable and deadly conditions they face, especially as COVID rates skyrocket. New York City officials need to act NOW to kill, end solitary confinement and ensure that people have access to medical care and other basic needs. ”

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