A series of inhumane viral photos from Rikers Island has swept the internet and sparked discussion about prison reform, as images of inmates living in appalling conditions shocked people on social media.
The images show inmates locked in makeshift shower stalls, an unresponsive inmate clearly in need of medical attention, and inmates covered in feces after being left for hours in a damning look at the country’s prison system.
Viral prison photos show inmates covered in feces, locked in shower stalls and in need of medical attention
Public Defender at Legal Aid NYC Olayemi Olurin tweeted the photos with the following captions:
“THIS IS INSIDE RIKERS. You can see people covered in feces they’ve been left in for more than 9 hours, you can see men locked in shower stalls that have been converted into cells, you can see men holding an unresponsive man on the Carry search for medical help.
THIS IS INSIDE RIKERS. You can see people covered in feces they have been left in for more than 9 hours, you can see men locked in shower stalls that have been converted into cells. You can see the men carrying an unresponsive man seeking medical help pic.twitter.com/kCJriR0MZm
— Olayemi Olurin (@msolurin) September 29, 2022
Her tweet has garnered over 26,000 likes and nearly 12,000 retweets as of Thursday.
Olurin wrote that the conditions at Rikers were “inhumane, evil, willful, and done to black and brown New Yorkers since 1932.”
She added that 31 inmates have died in prison since last year alone.
“This is in the units that house people. It’s inhuman, it’s evil, it’s intentional, and it’s been done to black and brown New Yorkers since 1932. 31 people have died since last year, WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH?!”
Olurin went on to say that Rikers Island “was only built for 3,000 people, so why are there over 5,000 people who haven’t been convicted of a crime?!”
Most recently, three inmates died in three days, with NYC Mayor Eric Adams accused of covering it up to delay a Justice Department investigation.
(Courtesy of Olayemi Olurin’s Twitter)
NYC Mayor is accused of covering up the deaths of inmates during Justice Department investigations and blames staff shortages for the crisis
Mayor Adams has continued to blame the crisis on a prison staff shortage, when in reality there are 5,600 inmates and 7,575 correctional officers.
That’s 1.3 guards for every inmate, meaning each incarcerated person could have their own prison guard with almost 2,000 freelance officers.
Reuven Blau of City NY reported that a Rikers inmate, Dashawn Carter, who took his own life on May 7, had called reporter Rosa Goldensohn in April 2020 to tell her of the dire conditions.
Carter told her that during his tenure at Rikers, which dates back to 2018, he missed more than a hundred doctor’s appointments, records show.
Social media reacts to despicable viral photos of prison conditions on Rikers Island
The social media response to Olurin’s exposure has largely supported prison reform.
QUEENS, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 28: Criminal justice activists are calling for the Rikers Island Jail and system that discriminates against the poor by breaking the law before the end of the trial on February 28, 2022 at the Rikers Island gate in Queens, New York Deposit required. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
“No human should be subjected to such conditions,” one person tweeted in response to the photos. “Sir, kennels have been closed for less money,” wrote another.
“This is horrific!” a third tweeted. “Shameful. Smdh,” wrote another.
“Amen; unfortunately Adams, Albany and the majority of elected officials just don’t care,” one user replied. “There are so many cities with prisons like this. It’s disgusting how people are treated,” said a second person.
One person took aim at Mayor Adams and tweeted: “Eric Adams makes me sick. He’s just another cop. It is, and he’s got that us-versus-them warrior mentality that they train cops — which isn’t good for governing *anything*.
“So slave labor,” one person tweeted. “Thank you for exposing and illuminating this corruption,” wrote a second.
Criminal justice activists are calling on the Rikers Island prison and system that discriminates against the poor by demanding bail before the end of the trial February 28, 2022 at the Rikers Island gate in Queens, New York. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Campaign to close Rikers, rallies at City Hall and measures to reduce prison population
In 2019, the Campaign to Close Rikers emerged, with proponents unveiling a plan to close it down by reducing the prison’s population to 3,300 and closing more city jails that commit the same abuses behind prison walls.
A third measure would divert $1.8 billion saved annually by reducing the population to 3,300 in housing, health care, education, economic development and youth services in poor communities, according to Olurin NewsOne op ed.
Meanwhile, in June, a rally was held outside City Hall where activists and family members of inmates called on Mayor Adams’ administration to do more to address living conditions in the prison.
Some held signs that read “Rikers Is A Death Sentence,” while another read “Rikers Is A Slave Ship #Neglect #NYCJailCrisis #CloseRikers.”
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