21-year-old Cameron described not being able to shower, eat, or even call home to ask for help. “The inmates [are] the ones ... feeding us and helping each other,” he said. “The COs don’t do nothing.”
Another, Jeffrey, described a detention cell packed with 30 people as a “slave ship” – and is regularly not given insulin for his diabetes.
Recently-released Mateo also remembers violence from corrections officers. “Nobody here is seeing the medic until Sunday,” one ordered. “I run your life. Your life is in my hands.”
He cautions people against the narrative that incarcerated people are inherently violent – it’s only a reaction to their persistent cries for help being ignored.
They can’t be ignored any longer. The issue with Rikers isn’t just overcrowding, and moving them to other jail facilities won’t fix the problem. They’re brutalizing people on purpose.
In order to end this crisis, we need to hear the truth about what’s actually going on. But it’s more than just honesty. We also need to listen to people’s experiences and take action. To help bail people out from Rikers Island, you can donate at https://www.covidbailout.org.