The United States is facing a crisis of mass incarceration. Our prisons and jails are packed with people. To understand the human toll of this crisis, Riker’s Island is a good place to start. Rikers is New York’s infamous jail and was ranked in one survey among the ten worst jails in America. Yet hundreds of thousands of people incarcerated across the country face similar violence, cruelty, and abuse that have become all too common at Rikers.
Most of us are blind to what goes on inside the walls. Places like Rikers are out of sight and out of mind, foreign countries we never visit. However, what happens to the people inside is done in our name, with our tax dollars, and reputedly for our safety. Here are some stories from inside Rikers told solely by the men and women who lived them. Be forewarned, some of the scenes are shocking, some of the language is raw but these are the faces of mass incarceration in America today.