Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Rikers Island is New York City's largest jail facility, sitting on a 415 acre (1.7 km²) plot of land in the East River between the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx. The jail complex has a budget of $860 million a year, a staff of 10,000 officers and 1,500 civilians to control a yearly inmate population of up to 130,000.
The facility generally holds about 15,000 inmates at a time, although the daytime population (including staff) can be 20,000 or more.
The facility, which consists of ten jails, holds local offenders who are awaiting trial and cannot afford or cannot obtain bail, those serving sentences of one year or less, and those temporarily placed there pending transfer to another facility which does not have space.
While technically the facility is located in the Bronx borough, the only access to the facility is from the borough of Queens over the unmarked 4,200-foot (1.28 km) three-lane Rikers Island Bridge, built in 1966. Before the bridge was constructed, the only access to the island was by ferry.
The facility is named after Abraham Rycken , a Dutch settler who moved to Long Island in 1638 and whose descendants owned Rikers Island until 1884, when it was sold to the city for $180,000 and has been used as a jail in one form or another ever since.
A drawing by artist Salvador Dali, done as an apology because he was unable to attend a talk on art for the prisoners at Rikers Island, hung in the inmate dining room from 1965 to 1981, when it was moved to the prison lobby for safekeeping. The drawing was stolen in March 2003 and replaced with a fake: four prison guards were arrested and charged, and though three later pled guilty and one was acquitted, the drawing has not been recovered.
- Link to map of Rikers Island.
- "Guards charged in Dali theft" - (BBC)
- " History of New York City Department of Corrections"
- "Rikers Island guards beat inmates for years" - (CNN, 1998)
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