The Indypendent spoke with an inmate at the Rikers Island on multiple occasions over the weekend. A participant in the recent two-day strike at the prison complex last week, he outlined conditions on the island, where at least 167 inmates and 137 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and in-person visits have been suspended. After our conversations, the Intercept reported that inmates are being offered $6 an hour and much sought-after protective gear to dig mass graves.
The prisoner, who asked that his name be withheld for fear of reprisal, paints a stark picture of life under the threat of pandemic but also of the courage and the solidarity inmates are displaying, despite the negligence of the city’s Department of Corrections. We’ve organized his remarks thematically below and edited them for concision and clarity.