From COVID-19 to unbelievably filthy facilities to deaths, the 2021 human rights crisis at Rikers Island was so bad they even called on the White House for help. But in order to understand this NYC jail’s horrors, we have to go back to the 1800s, to this jail’s unsurprising roots in slavery.
And this name: Richard Riker.
It didn’t matter if a Black person was free or not. When they were captured, and brought before Riker in court, he was responsible for deporting them to the South before they could even get a lawyer or witness to testify that they were free!
And, of course, being a member of this “club” helped line his pockets.
When we say we want to challenge the system, it serves us to know its history. Incarceration has always been rooted in anti-Black brutality. We can’t change that through incremental or reformative change – it needs to be pulled up and destroyed from the root.