Left Behind: No Evacuation Plan for NYC Prisoners

Locked up and left behind. Rikers Island has ten jails on 400 acres and 12,000 inmates. It's built on landfill, which is considered more vulnerable to natural disasters. Yet Mayor Bloomberg announced today there are no evacuation plans for Rikers.

Among the prisoners: Pre-trial detainees who have not been convicted of a crime; juvenile offenders and mentally ill inmates.

Does no one remember the prisoners during Hurricane Katrina? [More...]

As floodwaters rose in the OPP buildings, power was lost, and entire buildings were plunged into darkness. Deputies left their posts wholesale, leaving behind prisoners in locked cells, some standing in sewage-tainted water up to their chests …

Prisoners went days without food, water and ventilation, and deputies admit that they received no emergency training and were entirely unaware of any evacuation plan. Even some prison guards were left locked in at their posts to fend for themselves, unable to provide assistance to prisoners in need.

< Hurricane Irene Tracking | Late Night: Shelter From the Storm >
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    We lost the keys (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by koshembos on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 11:10:40 PM EST
    With about 2 million prisoners most of whom shouldn't be jailed, we throw the keys away and don't care much. Actually that the way we are all treated unless we work on Wall Street.

    Exactly... (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by kdog on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 10:43:56 AM EST
    if we were humane and gave two sh*ts half of Rikers wouldn't be in Rikers...our entire criminal "justice" system is an unnatural disaster.

    No surprise those we cage are an afterthought, its that way 24/7/365.


    This story, let 'em drown, (none / 0) (#1)
    by lentinel on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 08:44:58 PM EST
    only confirms what I already feel.

    That these politicians use these disasters to appear as if they give a damn.

    Obama appears, in his shirtsleeves costume, to show his concern. He offers the disaster equivalent of telling us not to put a knife in the toaster.

    Bloomie tells us to evacuate and suspends public transportation.

    There appears to be about 10 shelters (like Hunter College) to serve Manhattan's 1,500,000 residents.

    The Underground protected the Londoners during WW2, but our subways will be locked up.

    Having lived through 9/11, we will probably also see the valuelessness of our cellphones. During that horror, there were also no traffic signals - as well as no public transportation.

    What I'm getting at is that I have been living with the feeling that our government doesn't care about us - and potential nightmares like Irene only serve to intensify that feeling.

    I understand your sentiment but (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by ruffian on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 09:08:48 PM EST
    while subway tunnels might be a great place to be during an air-raid, I would not want to be down there during a flood. I have to agree with that decision.

    I think with climate change upon us it is time for cities to make plans for things they might not have planned for before, like massive flooding and hurricane force winds. These occurrences are going to be a lot more frequent than they used to be.


    You really want to go into the subway (none / 0) (#3)
    by nycstray on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 09:13:57 PM EST
    during storm surges from a hurricane/tropical storm in Manhattan? Unless the storm increases in intensity, most of Manhattan isn't expected to flood or need to have it's residents evaced, fwiu. My old place (Brooklyn) is in the second zone, so not under evac, but the riverfront there is.

    We had PT on 911, they just brought it back online slowly after they decided it was safe. I rode the subway home later that day.


    Well, (none / 0) (#4)
    by lentinel on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 09:52:49 PM EST
    I had a different experience on 9/11.

    There was NO subway.

    We had to walk from Canal Street up to 34th before we could get a bus. And that bus was just going slowly up First Avenue - in the middle of the road. Actually, that was interesting because of the bus driver. He just was picking people up and letting them off.. No scheduled stops.. no fare required.

    But forget about police.
    Everybody was GONE.
    Civilians were directing traffic.
    No police - anywhere.
    No cell phones.

    I wouldn't want to be in a NY Subway station during a flood.. That's because they flood. When it rains, it drips in. During a big rain, it floods.

    They can't provide us with a clean, safe Subway system. Just this piece of rat-infested smelly understaffed filth.

    The subways would be the ideal place to hide from a hurricane.
    It could protect us. It could be a giant storm cellar.

    But not that filthy mess in NYC.

    What I'm getting at is that when a real emergency happens, politicians posture but we are alone and on our own.


    A society is best judged ... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Robot Porter on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 10:22:39 PM EST
    by how it treats its criminals.

    A society is best judged (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 11:55:11 PM EST
    The quote as I learned it:

    "Ultimately as a society we will be judged by how we treat the lowest among us."

    (Which includes but is not limited to law-breakers -- it also includes various minorities, the mentally ill, whoever happens to be at the bottom of society's totem pole at any point.)


    Yes, that's a good quote too (none / 0) (#12)
    by Robot Porter on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 02:12:39 PM EST
    Alternatively, A society is best judged (none / 0) (#8)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 11:49:36 PM EST
    by what it criminalizes.

    Yeah, and it seems ... (none / 0) (#13)
    by Robot Porter on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 02:13:19 PM EST
    like that becoming more and more things.

    Analysis? (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Fri Aug 26, 2011 at 11:08:50 PM EST
    1.  There is a certain statistical probability of some sort of catastrophic flood and/or shut down of emergency generators; multiply this by the number of inmates (probably not all equally vulnerable) and you can see what the risk is.

    2.  Assuming there was a secure place to put 12000 inmates and enough secure buses and corrections officers to do it (unless you plan to release them all on their own recog), you have to transport them; in the chaos there is a risk of violence, escape, and recidivism, leading to a risk.

    It's hard to support option 2, with many more unknowns and potential risks to innocent civilians, unless you can pretty clearly say that the risks of option one greatly exceed those of option two.  Option two also takes buses and cops away from the general streets which will be chaotic enough.  The idea of ROR'ing all 12000 inmates won't exactly decrease the chaos of the street; if many are homeless, then they will likely be safer at Rikers than on the street.  

    Well, yes, but (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by gyrfalcon on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 02:02:18 AM EST
    there aren't many people at Rikers even Rick Perry would think had committed crimes that should be punished by drowning, you know what I mean?

    If Rikers is in a place where it can get flooded by this kind of event, they have to either fix it or be prepared to get people out of there before the worst happens.

    You really like the idea of somebody deciding to leave them there to possibly drown in their cells??


    Mayor Bloomberg (none / 0) (#14)
    by MKS on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 09:37:51 PM EST
    just said at Press conference that Rikers is safe because it is not in a low lying area.....

    He answered a question from press re: Rikers.  Was the question inspired by this diary?

    I'd suspect (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by CoralGables on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 10:07:50 PM EST
    that as buildings go, there is probably no more secure structure to ride out a storm.

    Comment with profanity (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 11:42:12 PM EST
    deleted, please read the comment rules.

    Repost, sans "profanity" (none / 0) (#17)
    by markpkessinger on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 11:48:42 PM EST
    But it's still sensationlist nonsense.

    If there were any substance to what is being alleged here, I would be the first to be outraged by it.  Rikers Island has an average elevation of 26 feet (or about 8 meters) above sea level. (Source:  U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey. As such, it is perfectly appropriate that it is not included in evacuation "Zone A." In fact, there are plenty of residential neighborhoods that sit at a lower elevation and also border a waterway in NYC that have not been evacuated (Long Island City, to name but one).  In addition, the complex has many buildings that are at least 10 stories tall. The projected storm surge is 4' to 8', and thus is not projected to present any significant risk to the Rikers prisoners.

    Here is a topographical map as well.

    It's easy to fall for this kind of thing, but it pays to do your own homework.

    Links to sources cited above (none / 0) (#18)
    by markpkessinger on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 11:55:58 PM EST
    In my attempt to repost, I omitted the links to the sources for my original post.  They are as follows:

    U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey


    topographical map


    Takes on no evac of Rikers, info it's above flood (none / 0) (#19)
    by jawbone on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 11:40:31 AM EST
    levels being predicted, and notes that no evacuation of prisoners in City jail located one block from the Lower Manhattan evacuation area.

    Via Hipparchia commenting at Corrente.

    Bloomberg also had no plans for evacuations IF the flood level were higher....

    Bloomberg does not come out of this smelling like a rose -- or a presidential contender.

    Neither to those who ran with this story.... (none / 0) (#20)
    by markpkessinger on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 12:03:45 PM EST
    ... without doing a minimal amount of fact checking come out smelling like journalistic roses.