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Rikers Island inmates go on strike to protest COVID-19 conditions and lockdown


Rikers Island inmates are on a hunger strike to protest COVID-19 closures and poor conditions at the chaotic prison facility.

About 200 men held at the Robert N. Davoren complex started the protest on Saturday, said Alice Fontier, executive director of the Neighborhood Defender Service in Harlem.

“They refused meals and asked to speak to the manager,” Fontier told The Post on Tuesday.

“They haven’t named anyone in particular, because of the conditions and the fact that you know they are being denied basic medical care, they’ve been regularly blocked, they don’t have law libraries, everything. that we’ve been talking about all this time.

A spokesperson for the Corrections Department said the inmates ate the commissioner’s food.

“There is no hunger strike,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “A group of inmates refused institutional food and ate stewardship food instead. The manager is engaged with them and responding to their concerns, and our employees have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of everyone who works and lives in our facilities. “

Nearly 200 men held at the facility began the protest on Saturday, said the executive director of the Neighborhood Defender Service in Harlem.
PA

A source from the prison who works at the complex said the men participating in the strike are “old” incarcerated for most of their lives, not teenagers and young adults.

The strike comes as coronavirus cases ravage Rikers and force inmates to be isolated.

“The house is in quarantine because inmates in the dormitory unit have tested positive,” the source said. “Once a housing unit tests positive it needs to be locked down, which means no recess, no visitation to prevent the spread of COVID… They basically want to be out of lockdown. “

But the source downplayed the severity of the strike, saying inmates generally use the police station, except when chicken is served on Sundays and Thursdays.

“They don’t starve, they just don’t eat food in prison,” the source said.

The protest follows a series of incidents and savage controversies in Rikers, including a spate of inmate suicides. A total of 16 inmates died while held in the city’s prison system last year, and one person attempted to hang himself while politicians toured the facilities.

Insiders said staff issues led to an increase in inmate violence, deadly ODs and an incident where prisoners shared videos on social media of a cell party. A state lawmaker called conditions in Rikers “hellish” after seeing the prison in person.

Rikers Island inmates go on strike to protest COVID-19 conditions and lockdown
A source who works at Rikers said the men who took part in the strike were held there for most of their lives, not teenagers and young adults.
Erik Pendzich / Shutterstock

Posts continue to be understaffed, a persistent problem since last year, and Fontier said inmates sometimes miss court appointments because there are no staff available to make them.

“The simple reality is that a lot of the problems are worse because they still happen,” Fontier said. “The longer you do not have access to adequate medical care, the longer you have no leisure, the longer you do not have a law library, the more your things drag on because you cannot go. in court or stay adjourned, the worse.

Rikers Island inmates go on strike to protest COVID-19 conditions and lockdown
The protest follows a series of savage incidents in Rikers, if not a series of inmate suicides – but one source downplayed the severity of the strike.
PA

The COVID-19 outbreak is exacerbating an “ongoing horrible situation,” she said.

“It’s so depressing to me that people choose hunger to get their point across because they can’t have their voices heard and no one else is paying attention,” Fontier said. “It’s tragic to me that they resort to this kind of collective activism.”

Municipal jails have a grievance process that allows people in custody to use the 311 during a lockdown to voice concerns. Grievances go to the director’s office, and some of the concerns raised in the protest have already been raised through the grievance system, according to DOC.

New York Post

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