Inmates on Rikers Island are on a starvation strike in protest of COVID-19 lockdowns and the poor circumstances on the chaotic jail facility.
About 200 male inmates on the Robert N. Davoren Advanced launched the protest on Saturday, mentioned Alice Fontier, managing director of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.
“They’ve been refusing meals and asking to speak to whoever is in cost,” Fontier informed The Submit on Tuesday.
“They haven’t named anyone particularly, due to the circumstances and the truth that you recognize they’re denied fundamental medical care, they’ve been on common lockdowns, they don’t have regulation libraries, the entire issues that we’ve been speaking about this entire time.”
A Division of Correction spokesperson mentioned the detainees have been consuming meals from the commissary.
“There is no such thing as a starvation strike,” the spokesperson mentioned in an announcement. “A gaggle of detainees had been refusing institutional meals and as an alternative consuming commissary meals. The warden is engaged with them and addressing their issues, and our staff have been working tirelessly to maintain all who work and stay in our services secure.”
A jailhouse supply who works on the complicated mentioned the boys taking part within the strike are “outdated timers” incarcerated for many of their lives, not teenagers and younger adults.
The strike comes as circumstances of the coronavirus ravage Rikers and power isolation of detainees.
“The home is beneath quarantine as a result of inmates within the dorm unit have examined optimistic,” the supply mentioned. “As soon as a housing unit checks optimistic they should be on lockdown, which means no rec, no visits to maintain COVID from spreading … They wish to be off lockdown principally.”
However the supply downplayed the severity of the strike, saying the inmates often use the commissary besides when rooster is served on Sundays and Thursdays.
“They aren’t ravenous, simply not consuming jail meals,” the supply mentioned.
The protest follows a sequence of untamed incidents and controversies at Rikers, together with a slew of detainee suicides. Some 16 inmates died general whereas in custody of the town’s jail system final yr, and one particular person tried to hold himself whereas politicians toured the services.
Insiders mentioned staffing issues led to an uptick in inmate violence, deadly ODs and one incident the place prisoners shared social media movies of a celebration in a cell. One state lawmaker known as the circumstances at Rikers “hellish” after seeing the jail in particular person.
Posts are proceed to go unstaffed, an ongoing concern since final yr, and Fontier mentioned inmates generally miss courtroom appointments as a result of there isn’t any workers out there to take them.
“The straightforward actuality is that most of the issues are worse as a result of they’re nonetheless occurring,” Fontier mentioned. “The longer you don’t have entry to ample medical care, the longer you don’t have rec, the longer you don’t have regulation libraries, the longer your circumstances drag on as a result of you possibly can’t get to courtroom or they maintain getting adjourned, the more severe it will get.”
The COVID-19 outbreak is making worse an “ongoing horrible state of affairs,” she mentioned.
“It’s so extensively miserable to me that individuals are selecting starvation with a view to make a degree as a result of they’ll’t have their voices heard and nobody else is paying consideration,” Fontier mentioned. “It’s tragic to me that they should resort to this type of collective activism.”
Metropolis jails have a grievance course of that enables individuals in custody to make use of 311 throughout a lockout to voice issues. The grievances go to the warden’s workplace, and a few of the issues introduced up within the protest had been beforehand raised via the grievance system, in line with the DOC.