NYC Criticized For Failing To Evacuate Prisoners at Rikers Island Ahead of Hurricane
Even though Hurricane Irene prompted a series of extraordinary measures in New York City — a complete shutdown of the public transit system and mass evacuations on an unprecedented scale — officials did not take any steps to evacuate some 12,000 prisoners held in a city jail on Riker’s Island. According to the New York City Department of Corrections’ website, more than three-quarters of Rikers Island’s 400 acres are built on landfill, which is generally thought to be more vulnerable to natural disasters. Mayor Micheal Bloomberg said prisoners there were not in any danger, but human rights organizations condemned the city’s decision. Today also marks the sixth anniversary of another massive storm and a decision not to evacuate prisoners. It was August 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina led to the flooding of New Orleans, and prisoners in city and parish jails were left to fend for themselves. We speak with James Ridgeway, a reporter for Mother Jones magazine and founder and co-editor of SolitaryWatch, a website that tracks solitary confinement and torture in American prisons.