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Rikers Island

Since 2014, 35 correctional officers and/or staff members at Rikers were charged with criminal offenses. 13 of the 35 were charged with assault or attempted assault. Federal prosecutors have indicted Riker’s correctional officers with civil rights violations (excessive force, and other offenses).

Rikers Island is the largest jail complex in the United States. The facility has 413 acres, 8,000 inmates, and 7300 correctional officers and staff. The biggest difference between Rikers island and prison—the majority of the incarcerated at Rikers jail are waiting for their day in court. They have not been found or pled guilty to any offense.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stated, “Rikers Island is one of these long-term injustices and abuses that every New Yorker should be outraged about… “The situation is intolerable.”

A 2014 brutality case in which video tape revealed that prison guard, Rodiny Calypso brutally attacked an inmate. The guard handcuffed the inmate and punched him in the face and head several times. The officer had claimed that the inmate spit on him, after an argument.

The tragic life of Kalief Browder, a former inmate at Rikers, exemplified the horrors of Rikers. Kalief Browder, when he was 16, was charged with theft of a backpack. He was incarcerated at Rikers Island for three years waiting for trial. He was locked up almost two years in solitary confinement. One video revealed a prison guard brutally attacking the young man. In a second video, Kalief was beaten by gang members. During the course of three long years of imprisonment, without ever going to trial, he was denied meals, medical care,and he attempted several suicides.

After three long years waiting for trial, the prosecution in 2013, dismissed the backpack theft charge. On June 6, 2015, two years after his release, Kalief committed suicide at the age of 22.


Kalief Browder–ABC News

A 2015 settlement of civil litigation over pervasive brutality at Rikers imposed various changes, including the addition of thousands of surveillance cameras, stricter policies on use of force and the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee conditions.

Even with this settlement and the reduction of inmates being held for minor offenses, there are stories that brutality still walks the tiers of Rikers.

Glenn Martin, founder of the nonprofit group.JustLeadershipUsA, stated, “if you are a New Yorker who cares about the soul of the criminal justice system, you know that Rikers is the belly of the beast.”

By:Bradley Schwartz
Founder of
Prison Consultant

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