It’s not enough for a person being held on Rikers Island to simply testify to what goes on inside
Honestly nobody cares and nobody is going to believe them
A judge in New York City ordered a person released from Rikers Island for an Eighth Amendment violation last week, something that, to say the least, is exceedingly rare, and one hopes could have broader implications for the future of the horrific prison system. Not holding my breath there but one can dream. In her decision Judge April Newbauer described “squalid conditions, rampant violence among and to detainees, and a lack of essential services such as food and water,” as well as a situation in which more powerful inmates themselves were essentially in charge, and forced others to fight for their entertainment.
Today Shane Ferro, a public defender in New York City, joins us to explain the decision and how difficult it can be to win a case like this in the face of widespread institutional indifference and cruelty to the incarcerated, whether they’ve been convicted of a crime or not, as was the case of the pseudonymous inmate in the complaint at hand.
Ferro previously wrote for Hell World about the early days of Covid inside the New York City courthouses.
Relatedly, you might also read this interview I did with Emma Goodman, a public defender with the the Legal Aid Society in New York, about safety conditions inside of prisons, or this interview with a public defender in Ohio about the pressures and satisfactions of defending people who a lot of times no one else in the world gives a fuck about.