MetroFocus: January 23, 2023

METROFOCUS SPECIAL –

LIFE ON RIKERS: AN ORAL HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY’S MOST NOTORIOUS LOCKUP

New York City jails are deadlier now than they have been in decades, with 19 detainees reportedly dying last year in custody or right after their release, the highest rate in 25 years. Many died at Rikers, which has been plagued by overdoses, violence, and inhumane conditions for years. So how did things get this bad and is there hope for a turnaround with the jail complex set to close later this decade? Award-winning journalists Graham Rayman and Reuven Blau have tried to answer these pressing questions, conducting over 100 interviews with former detainees, corrections officers and public officials to tell their stories in their own words. They join us to discuss these firsthand accounts, which are the foundation of “Rikers: An Oral History.” We are also joined by two voices featured in the book: Martin Cregg, a retired Department of Correction gang investigator, and Angel Tueros, a human rights and social justice activist detained at Rikers in the 1990s.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, LIFE BEHIND BARS ON RIKERS ISLAND.

THOSE FOREVER CHANGED BY NEW YORK'S MOST NOTORIOUS LOCKUP SHARE HOW IT BECAME THE SYMBOL OF INJUSTICE IT IS TODAY.

SO, SHOULD THE CITY FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE PLAN TO FINALLY CLOSE RIKERS FOR GOOD?

'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

> BEEN ON RIKERS, SPEAKING WITH INMATES, SPEAKING WITH STAFF, WALKING THROUGH RIKERS ISLAND SO MAKE SURE WE CAN GET THE RESULTS WE'RE LOOKING FOR, AND WE'RE ALSO DOING OUR JOB, INVESTING MILLIONS IN UPGRADING FACILITIES TO ENSURE BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS FOR THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO SERVE THERE AND MORE HUMANE CONDITIONS FOR THE PERSONS WHO ARE IN CUSTODY.

GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

NEW YORK CITY JAILS ARE DEADLIER NOW THAN THEY HAVE BEEN IN DECADES.

19 DETAINEES REPORTEDLY DIED LAST YEAR IN CUSTODY OR RIGHT AFTER THEIR RELEASE, THE HIGHEST RATE IN 25 YEARS.

MANY DIED AT RIKERS, WHICH HAS BEEN PLAGUED BY OVERDOSES, VIOLENCE, AND INHUMANE CONDITIONS FOR MANY YEARS NOW.

SO HOW DID REICHERS BECOME THE SYMBOL OF INJUSTICE IT IS TODAY?

IS THERE STILL HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE LOCKUP, SLATED TO CLOSE SOME TIME THIS DECADE?

FOR ANSWERS, AWARD WINNING JOURNALISTS GRAHAM RAYMAN AND REUVEN BLAU PERFORMED OVER 100 INTERVIEWS WITH CORRECTION OFFICERS, DETAINEES AND OFFICIALS TO GET STORIES IN THEIR OWN WORDS.

THESE ACCOUNTS MAKE UP 'RIKERS: AN ORAL HISTORY,' WHICH EXPOSES THE BRUTALITY AND HUMANITY OF THE JAIL COMPLEX.

AND WE ARE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME TO TALK ABOUT ALL OF THIS BOTH GRAHAM AND REUVEN BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

GRAHAM COVERS CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND POLICING FOR ''NEW YORK DAILY NEWS'', AND REUVEN IS A SENIOR REPORTER FOR 'THE CITY'. WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY TWO OF THE VOICES FEATURED IN THE BOOK.

MARTIN CREGG IS A RETIRED DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS GANG INVESTIGATOR WHO RUNS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATION FIRM AND ANGEL TUEROS IS THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST WHO WAS DETAIN AT RIKERS FOR SEVERAL YEARS IN THE '90s BEFORE SERVING TIME IN PRISON.

GENTLEMAN, WELCOME.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

THANK YOU.

LET ME START WITH THE IDEA BEHIND THE BOOK, AND GRAHAM I'LL COME TO YOU FIRST IF I CAN.

WHY DECIDE TO TELL THIS STORY BY ESSENTIALLY GOING IN, REACHING IN BEHIND THE WALLS AND HEARING THE VOICES OF THOSE WHO POPULATED RIKERS?

WELL, WE CERTAINLY COULD HAVE DONE A CONVENTIONAL HISTORY, BUT WE DECIDED THAT WE WANTED IT TO BE AS INTIMATE AND PERSONAL AS POSSIBLE, AND WE ALSO WANTED TO SHOWCASE THE VOICES OF THE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY WORK THERE AND LIVE THERE RATHER THAN LOOKING AT THE SUBJECT FROM 5,000 FEET UP.

WE WANTED THE READER TO BE ON THE GROUND, INSIDE THE FACILITY, AND SEE IT FROM ALL PERSPECTIVES.

HOPEFULLY BY HEARING PERSPECTIVES OF OFFICERS AND PEOPLE WHO WERE HELD THERE AND SUPERVISORS AND COMMISSIONERS AND OTHERS, YOU WOULD REALLY GET A VERY REAL SENSE OF WHAT IT WAS LIKE THERE, WHAT IT IS LIKE THERE.

REUVEN, YOU'VE SPENT A LOT OF YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER REPORTING ON RIKERS.

WERE YOU SURPRISED IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM BY WHAT YOU HEARD FROM THESE VOICES INSIDE?

YEAH, ABSOLUTELY.

SOME OF THE STORIES WERE REALLY FRANKLY SHOCKING.

I'VE COVERED RIKERS FROM DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES FOR CLOSE TO 20 YEARS NOW, AND THERE WERE SOME ISSUES THAT CAME UP THAT I WAS JUST TOTALLY UNAWARE OF, INCLUDING SOMETHING CALLED BULLPEN THERAPY, JUST THE CONCEPT OF DRAGGING DETAINEES TO COURT.

JUST THE IDEA OF GETTING WOKEN UP, DRAGGED ON TO THE BUS AND WAITING AND WAITING AND WAITING AND WAITING FOR ROUTINE COURT HEARINGS TO HAPPEN.

AND I WAS HONESTLY SHOCKED.

IN THE BOOK I TALKED TO THIS PERSON ALL WINTER, AND HE TOLD ME THE WORST PART OF IT -- AND I THOUGHT HE'D SAY SOMETHING ABOUT VIOLENCE, GANGS, FOOD, THE WORST PART IS GETTING DRAGGED BACK AND FORTH TO COURT.

ON AVERAGE IN THE '90s, YOU WOULD HAVE TO DO THIS 12 TIMES IT'S THIS IDEA THAT'S JUST BAKED INTO THE SYSTEM.

MARTIN, I'M GOING TO COME TO YOU IN A SECOND.

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE BULLPEN THERAPY.

GRAHAM, I THINK THE HISTORY OF RIKERS IS FASCINATING AND COMPELLING IN SOME WAYS.

TELL US ABOUT HOW IT GOT STARTED AND WHAT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BECOME IN THE '20s AND '30s AS OPPOSED TO WHAT IT IS NOW.

SURE.

IT STARTED -- WELSH IT WAS A FARM, A SMALL ISLAND THAT WAS EXPANDED THROUGH FILL FROM THE MANHATTAN STREET NETWORK TO ABOUT 400 ACRES.

AND IT BECAME A MOTLEY COLLECTION OF DEBTORS PRISONS.

THERE WAS A JUVENILE FACILITY THERE.

THIS WAS BEFORE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY.

AND THEN THE CITY FATHERS DECIDED TO BUILD A JAIL THERE.

AND IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A PODLE PENITENTIARY.

AND THE CORNERSTONE -- I'LL READ IT.

THE CORNERSTONE SAID, OPENED IN 1933, THOSE WHO ARE LIVE WHOG LAID THIS CORNERSTONE TODAY HOPES THE TREATMENT THESE UNFORTUNATES WILL RECEIVE IN THIS INSTITUTION WILL BE THE MEANS OF SALVAGING SOME LIVES WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN OTHERWISE WASTED.

'THE NEW YORK TIMES' RAN A BIG SPREAD OF THE MODEL PRISON AND WHAT IT WOULD LOOK LIKE, AND VERY MUCH IN THE HISTORY OF RIKERS, WE SEE THE RULE OF GOOD INTENTIONS AND HOW IT GOES SIDEWAYS.

AND THEN FAST FORWARD TO THE '70s WHEN THE PRISON POPULATION EXPLODED AND THE '80s, THEN THERE WAS A BIG JAIL BUILDING BOOM B SO EVENTUALLY YOU HAD 11 FACILITIES ON THE ISLAND IN ADDITION TO SEVERAL BOROUGH FACILITIES.

ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT RIKERS, IT WAS ALSO AN ENORMOUS DUMP, AND YOU COULD SEE THE GARBAGE FIRES FROM ACROSS THE EAST RIVER.

AND THERE WERE HUGE, ENORMOUS CLOUD OF RATS.

IN FACT, THERE WERE ARTICLES WRITTEN, THIS IS OVER 100 YEARS AGO -- ARTICLES WRITTEN ABOUT HOW WILD DOGS SHOULD BE ENLISTED TO REDUCE THE RAT POPULATION ON RIKERS.

YOU MENTIONED THIS AND I WAS FASCINATED ABOUT HOW IT EXPANDED FROM 87 ACRES TO 400 BECAUSE OF ALL THAT MATERIAL BROUGHT IN.

LET'S HEAR FROM SOME OF THE OTHER VOICES HERE.

ANGEL, I'M GOING TO GO TO YOU FIRST.

I'M CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR RECOLLECTIONS OF THE FIRST MOMENTS THAT YOU ARRIVED AT RIKERS.

THAT FIRST MOMENT WHEN I ARRIVED THERE, I REMEMBER BEING STRIPPED, COMPLETELY STRIPPED DOWN NAKED AND -- WITH OTHER DETAINEES ON A SINGLE FILE, ON A LINE, AND WE WERE MADE TO PUT OUR HANDS BEHIND OUR BACK AND SQUAT WHILE WE WERE NAKED ONLINE SO WE COULD GET A SURGEON, THEN WE WILL RECEIVE OUR CLOSE BACKS AND GET DRESSED.

ALSO WE WERE DURING THAT PROCESS WE WERE PLACED IN A BULLPEN IN A VERY SMALL SPACE WHERE THERE WERE TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THERE WITH ONE TOILET ON THE FLOOR.

AND WHILE THERE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A FOUNTAIN OF WATER, THAT DID NOT WORK.

SO THOSE ARE MY FIRST MEMORY.

YEAH.

MARTIN, LET ME ASK YOU THIS.

WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS BEFORE WE STARTED TO ROLL OUR TAPE.

I HAD BEEN A PROSECUTOR IN NEW JERSEY.

I WAS ALSO A DEFENSE ATTORNEY, AND I'VE OFTEN SAID THAT ONE OF THE MORE DIFFICULT PARTS OF THOSE JOBS FOR ME WERE WALKING INTO A JAIL.

AND THE NOISE OF THE CELL SLAMMING BEHIND YOU -- EVEN THOUGH I KNEW I WAS GETTING OUT, IT STILL SORT OF GRABBED YOU, AND JUST THE ENTIRE ATMOSPHERE, AND YOU HAD AN INTERESTING OBSERVATION ALSO.

YEAH.

THE CELL SLAMMING ALWAYS -- IT'S NERVE RACKING.

BUT MY THING IS THE SMELL.

THERE'S A DISTINCT SMELL AT A NEW ADMISSION FACILITY, IT'S THE COMBINATION OF BODY ODOR, BAD DISINFECTANT.

GUYS HAVE BEEN IN THE PEN TWO OR THREE DAYS, AND IT'S -- IT'S A DISTINCT SMELL.

I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE IT.

IT'S -- I CALL IT THE C-95, THE NEW ADMISSION PEN SMELL.

IT'S DIFFERENT, AND IT STAYS WITH YOU.

ONCE IN A WHILE, SOMETIMES YOU CAN TASTE IT.

I'LL BE ON THE TRAIN SOMETIMES AND I'LL GET THAT SMELL.

YOU CAN TELL LOOKING AT A GUY'S SHOES THAT HE CAME OUT HE'S FRESHLY OUT, AND YEAH, IT'S JUST REALLY -- AND AS FAR AS THE BULLPEN THERAPY, I GOT TO TELL YOU --

THAT WAS MY QUESTION I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU.

I WAS DIEING TO ELABORATE ON THAT.

THAT IS A TRUE THING.

AND A LOT OF GUYS WILL TELL YOU, THERE'S COPOUT SANDWICHES.

THE SANDWICHES ARE SO BAD, OH, I'M GOING COP OUT.

THE BULLPEN, YOU REALLY CAN'T BLAME THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FOR THE BULLPEN THERAPY.

IF YOU HAVE A COURT COUNT OF LIKE 500, WHICH IS PROBABLY IN THE '90s, THESE JUDGES WANT CERTAIN INMATES THERE AS A PRIORITY, ONE.

SO IF YOU DON'T HAVE THEM THERE, THE DEPARTMENT HAS TO ANSWER FOR IT.

SO IT SOUNDS CRUEL AND UNUSUAL TO MAKE SOMEBODY UP AT 4:00 IN THE MORNING, BUT YOU GOT TO REMEMBER, YOU GOT TO GATHER THEM ALL DOWN, PUT THEM ON A CERTAIN BUS.

CERTAIN PEN TO GO ON A CERTAIN BUS.

IT IS -- GOD BLESS, I COULDN'T DO IT.

I COULDN'T DO IT.

YEAH.

ANGEL, LET ME COME BACK TO YOU FOR A SECOND.

IN THE BOOK YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO JOIN UP -- YOU SAID YOU DIDN'T THINK IT WAS A GANG AT THE TIME, AN ASSOCIATION AT THE TIME.

BUT WHY DID YOU FEEL COMPELLED TO DO THAT?

WELL, I WAS INVITED TO JOIN WHAT IS KNOWN AS THE [ SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH ] WHICH IS TRANSLATED AS ASSOCIATION FOR THE RIGHTS OF THE -- AND THAT GROUP IS ALSO KNOWN AS THE NETAs.

IT ORIGINATED IN PUERTO RICO TO FIGHT FOR -- YOU KNOW, FOR RIGHTS INSIDE THE PRISONS IN PUERTO RICO.

AND I DON'T KNOW THE HISTORY OF HOW IT CAME TO NEW YORK, BUT I WAS SHOWN THE ARTICLES, NEWSPAPER ARTICLES AND THE RULES, AND ALL THE RULES THAT THEY HAVE, THAT THIS GROUP HAVE, ARE WHAT, YOU KNOW, SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE VALUES.

ALL THE RULES ARE ABOUT RESPECT TO THE VISITORS, THE VISITOR.

YOU KNOW, OF THE CONFINE THAT THEY SLEEP -- YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'RE SLEEPING THAT'S SACRED.

STUFF LIKE THAT.

SO, YOU KNOW, THAT WOULD COMPEL ME TO JOIN THEM, BECAUSE I SAW THE GROUP, THE WAY THE GROUP WAS INTRODUCED TO ME WAS SOMETHING THAT ORGANIZED -- THE GUYS ORGANIZING THEMSELVES TO FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS, YOU KNOW.

DID THAT CHANGE?

DID YOUR PERCEPTION OF IT, THE REALITY OF IT BECOME SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU THOUGHT IT WAS?

YES.

IT EVENTUALLY CHANGED BECAUSE SOME MEMBERS USED THE GROUP TO -- TO DEAL WITH DRUGS AND TO ASSERT VIOLENCE AGAINST OTHERS.

I WAS IN FACT LEADING IN ONE OF THE DORMS AND WAS NICKNAMED [ SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH ] THE TOWEL THROWER, BECAUSE THE TOP LEADERS WOULD SEND A GREEN LIGHT AGAINST SOMEONE, AND I WOULD ASK, YOU KNOW, WHY -- I WOULD QUESTION THE DECISION AND WOULD NOT PARTICIPATE IN ASSERTING VIOLENCE AGAINST ANYBODY.

TOWEL THROWING, THE REFERENCE BEING IN BOXING MATCHES THROWING IN THE TOWEL.

EXACTLY, EXACTLY.

REUVEN, HOW ABOUT THAT, THE GANG CULTURE WITHIN RIKERS?

WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND?

WE INTERVIEWED, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE, AND MANY OF THEM, ESPECIALLY YOUNGER DETAINEES TALKED ABOUT -- REALLY ONE OF THE FIRST QUESTIONS THEY GET ASKED IS, WHAT MEMBER -- WHAT GROUP ARE YOU WITH?

ONE OF THE PEOPLE WE TALKED TO SAID, LOOK -- WE TALKED TO ONE OF THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE PEOPLE WHO WERE EXONERATED AND THEY SAID, LOOK, I'M NOT PART OF ANYTHING.

YOU KNOW, I'M NOT THAT.

AND HE ACTUALLY HAD TO HAVE A FRIEND COME IN AND SAY, OH, LOOK, HE'S WITH ME.

LIKE, DON'T WORRY, HE ISN'T.

JUST SO CONTROLLING.

TO THIS DAY WE TALK ABOUT IT.

LIKE THIS LAST YEAR THERE WAS -- I THINK IT WAS CALLED 500 SLASHINGS.

AND SO MUCH OF IT, WE TALKED WITH PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THAT, AND SO MUCH OF THAT IS RELATED TO GANGS AND THE STRUGGLE THE DEPARTMENT HAS WHETHER OR NOT TO SEGREGATE THEM, KEEP THEM IN UNITS OR TO MIX THEM AND COMINGLE, AND THE STRUGGLE OF, HOW DO YOU ASSIGN PEOPLE, HOW DO YOU CLASSIFY THOSE PEOPLE?

MARTIN, FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, TALK ABOUT THAT STRUGGLE.

YOU ARE THE VOICES OF THIS IS RIGHT THERE, YET THERE'S ANOTHER ENTIRELY DIFFERENT AUTHORITY INSIDE THE WALLS THERE.

HOW DID THAT PLAY OUT?

OKAY, AT ONE POINT THE DEPARTMENT HIRED A GROUP, I BELIEVE THEY WERE CALLED THE MACKENZIE GROUP.

A BUNCH OF KIDS, 24, 25 YEARS OLD WHO HAD ABSOLUTELY NO CORRECTIONS EXPERIENCE.

THEY WERE SMART KIDS, BUT SMART IN JAIL IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD THING.

YOU HAVE TO USE A LITTLE MORE COMMON SENSE.

SO I WAS IN A MEETING, AND I HAPPENED TO BE THERE, AND THEY SAID THEY WANTED TO PUT ALL THE BLOODS IN THIS AREA, ALL THE KRIPS HERE, THE -- HERE.

MY RESPONSE WAS, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

IT'S JUST GOING TO CREATE MORE HAVOC.

YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE ONE OR TWO STRAGGLERS, AND THESE GUYS ARE GOING TO BULLY THE HELL OUT OF THEM.

NONETHELESS, IT WAS A BIG CONTRACT, THEY PAID A LOT OF MONEY, AND IT INCREASED THE VIOLENCE TWOFOLD.

I WAS GOING TO SLASHINGS TWO, THREE TIMES A DAY.

BECAUSE AGAIN, THESE YOUNG KID S TO NEVER DEALT WITH AN INNER CITY KID, TELLING KREKS PEOPLE HOW TO PLACE THESE GUYS.

SOMETIMES IT'S NOT WHAT'S ON PAPER, IT'S BY COMMON SENSE.

I NOTICE A GUY 15 YEARS, I REPORT HIM, YOU CAN'T PUT HIM WITH THESE PEOPLE.

BUT THE POWERS THAT BE, I WOULD JUST --

RIGHT, RIGHT.

JUST A FOOT SOLDIER.

RIGHT, AND YOU LISTEN TO THEM.

GRAHAM, HOW ABOUT THAT?

I KNOW THAT AS PART OF YOUR REPORTING YOU LOOKED AT THAT.

YEAH, ONE OF THE FASCINATING THINGS, THERE'S A STORY IN THE BOOK FROM COLIN ABSALAM.

HE GETS JUMPED BY A LARGELY DOMINICAN GANG.

THIS HAPPENED CHRISTMAS EVE 1994.

THIS FOLLOWS HIM THE NEXT FOUR YEARS.

THEY HAVE SENT OUT WORD TO OTHER MEMBERS IN UNITS ACROSS THE JAILS.

IT FOLLOWS HIM FROM UNIT TO UNIT TO UNIT, TO THE POINT HE GETS TO A UNIT AND SEES PEOPLE HE RECOGNIZES AND GOES, I'M NOT GOING IN THERE.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE A MADE-UP STORY, BUT IT IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE.

IT CAN EVEN FOLLOW YOU UPSTATE, THESE CONFLICTS.

IT'S VERY, VERY DANGEROUS.

THEY SEND OUT --

GO AHEAD, MARTIN.

TO ELABORATE ON WHAT GRAHAM SAID, THEY SEND OUT WHAT THEY CALL KITES.

THEY'LL LET EVERYBODY KNOW WHO YOU ARE, WHAT THE STATUS WAS, WHO YOU HAD A PROBLEM WITH, AND IT'S LIKE WILDFIRE.

SO IT'S -- STATE, FEDERAL, IT'S A WHOLE NETWORK.

IT'S A CLOSED NETWORK.

REUVEN, TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE IMPACT OF MENTAL ILLNESS FOR THE FOLKS INHABITING RIKERS AND WHAT, IF ANYTHING, IS BEING DONE ABOUT THAT?

IT'S AN INCREDIBLE ISSUE THAT'S GETTING WORSE AND WORSE AS TIME GOES ON.

IT MIMICS SOCIETY.

CURRENTLY 50% OF THE POPULATION IS DIAGNOSED WITH MENTAL HEALTH, INCLUDING ABOUT 16% WITH -- I INTERVIEWED ANN PETRERO, A CLINICIAN WHO WORKED THERE MANY YEAR, AND SHE TOLD ME THIS INCREDIBLE STORY WHO THIS DETAINEE WOULD GO AROUND CALLING EVERYONE CUPCAKE GERBIL FACE AND COULD GO AROUND SLASHING HIMSELF.

SHE TALK ABOUT HOW SHE HAD A CONNECTION WITH HIM.

HE WOULD GO AROUND HARMING HIMSELF.

BECAUSE THEY WERE CLOSE THEY WOULD CALL HER IN TO TRY TO GET HIM TO STOP.

AND SHE TALKED TO HIM ABOUT HOW ALSO JUST THE IDEA OF HARMING THEMSELVES -- LIKE HE WOULD CUT HIMSELF SO BADLY HE'D HAVE TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL.

HE'D CUT TO THE BONE.

AND SHE MENTIONED HE JUST -- HE WANTED TO FEEL PAIN AND LIKE PHYSICAL PAIN, JUST BLOCK ALL HIS INTERNAL PAIN HE'S GONE THROUGH IN HIS LIFE, AND IT JUST BECOMES THIS WAREHOUSE OF THAT.

AND THE OFFICERS AREN'T TRAINED TO DEAL WITH THIS, AND THE MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIANS ARE OVERWHELMED.

I TALKED TO ANOTHER MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIAN THAT WORK THERE HAD MANY YEARS.

HE TALKED ABOUT PEOPLE COMING AND OUT OF HIS OFFICE, HE DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO HELP PEOPLE WORK THROUGH THE ISSUES.

I INTERVIEW A CHAPLAIN IN THE BOOK.

HE TELLS A MOVING STORY IN THE BOOK HOW HE'LL COME IN FRIDAYS AND THEY WOULD SING SONGS AND HE'LL DO THIS OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

THERE WAS SOMEBODY IN THE FRONT ROW AT ONE POINT WHO HAD BEEN THERE MANY WEEKS IN A ROW WHO JUST GETS UP AND PUNCHES HIM IN THE FACE.

CLEARLY MENTALLY ILL.

THAT HAPPENS SO OFTEN.

DID YOU HAVE TRAINING, MARTIN, FROM YOUR POSITION AS TO HOW YOU HANDLE THAT?

I'M GLAD YOU BROUGHT THAT UP.

WHEN I FIRST STARTED, YOU HAD TRAINING IN THE ACADEMY.

THEN WHEN YOU WORK IN CERTAIN BUILDINGS, THEY GIVE YOU A WEEK OF ADDITIONAL TRAINING.

THEN EVERY YEAR YOU GO BACK TO THE ACADEMY.

IT WAS A FOUR-DAY THING CALLED BLOCK TRAINING.

BUT AS TIME WENT ON, THEY ELIMINATED THE MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING AND THE FOUR-DAY BLOCK TRAINING THEY CONDENSED INTO A ONE-DAY TRAINING FOR OVERTIME PURPOSES.

THEY DIDN'T WANT TO PAY THE MONEY.

SO, I MEAN, A LOT OF -- I'VE ALWAYS FOUND WITH MENTAL HEALTH GUYS, I GOT ALONG WELL WITH THEM.

I DON'T KNOW IF I SHOULD SAY.

THAT SOME OF THESE GUYS, YOU JUST TALK TO THEM.

YOU CAN TALK THEM DOWN.

IT'S -- YOU KNOW, BECAUSE -- BUT I'VE SEEN GUYS -- LIKE ONE GUY IN PARTICULAR, HIS NAME WAS WHACK IRONICALLY.

HE WOULD JUST SEE SOMEBODY AND HAUL OFF AND PUNCH THEM.

NOW YOU GOT TO SIT THERE AND WRITE ALL THESE REPORTS.

HE'D KEEP TALKING LIKE, HEY, CREGG, HOW'S EVERYTHING?

ANGEL, HOW ABOUT FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE -- DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE CLEARLY SUFFERING FROM PROBLEMS -- HOW DID IT IMPACT YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE?

WELL, IN DIFFERENT WAYS.

LIKE, ONE THING I WOULD LIKE TO REFER TO IS THE BEGINNING, THEY SMELL.

PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, THEY URINATE IN THEIR BED, AND EVERYONE -- YOU KNOW -- I WAS YOUNG MYSELF WHEN I WAS THERE.

WE DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THESE GUYS SMELL LIKE EUROPEAN OR SOMEONE SMELL OF FEE SIS.

AND YOU ARE IN AN OPEN DORM WITH 60 MORE PEOPLE.

SOME PEOPLE DON'T TAKE SHOWERS.

AND IT'S HARD TO DEAL WITH THAT, BECAUSE YOU KNOW TO SOME EXTENT THAT THESE GUYS SUFFER FROM -- HAVE SOME MENTAL ILLNESS ISSUES.

AND THERE WERE POINTS WHERE ONE GUY WAS NOW SO BAD THAT ALL THE GUYS WILL PRESSURE HIM TO LEAVE THE DORM, WILL ASK HIM TO PACK HIS STUFF AND STAND BY THE DOOR OF THE DORM, AND THEN THE OFFICERS WILL COME AND ESCORT HIM OUT, BECAUSE IF NOT, SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN.

WE'VE HEARD STORIES ABOUT RIKERS FOR DECADES NOW.

SO, MY QUESTION IS TO YOU, GRAHAM, IS WHY DOES IT APPEAR THAT NOTHING HAS CHANGED?

WELL -- I MEAN, THE POPULATION IS A THIRD OF WHAT IT WAS IN THE EARLY '90s, SO THAT'S CHANGED.

THERE HAS BEEN SOME PROGRESS.

THERE HAS BEEN SOME PROGRESS.

THERE'S A BETTER UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU DON'T NEED TO HAVE A HUGE NUMBER OF LOW LEVEL PEOPLE ARRESTED ON LOW LEVEL OFFENSES IN THE JAIL.

I THINK THE POPULATION IS DOWN JUST UNDER 6,000 NOW.

THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO THINK IT COULD BE EVEN LOWER.

THE CITY'S PLAN CALLS FOR 3,300, WHICH A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK IS WAY TOO LOW, THERE'S NOT THE CAPACITY FOR IT -- THAT THAT CAPACITY NUMBER IS TOO LOW.

SO THERE HAS BEEN CHANGE.

I THINK THE OTHER CHANGE IS THAT THERE'S A BETTER UNDERSTANDING THAN THERE WAS BACK WHEN I BECAME A -- STARTED AS A REPORTER IN THE 1990s OF THE, YOU KNOW, TREATING PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN HELD IN RIKERS AS HUMAN BEINGS.

YOU KNOW, HEARING THEIR STORIES.

AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF IT IS HEARING THE CORRECTION OFFICERS' STORIES.

YOU KNOW, THE WAY RIKERS IS TAXES BOTH LIVES IN MANY WAYS.

YOU KNOW, A LOT OF CORRECTION OFFICERS, YOU KNOW -- IT'S A VERY HIGH STRESS JOB, IT'S VERY DIFFICULT, AND ON THE OTHER SIDE, PEOPLE WHO HAVE SERVED TIME IN RIKERS, IT AFFECTS THEIR LIVES, YOU KNOW, AND THEIR KIDS' LIVES AND FAMILIES' LIVES IN WAYS THAT EVEN IF YOU'RE ARRESTED ON A LOW LEVEL OFFENSE YOU CAN LOSE YOUR APARTMENT, YOUR JOB, ET CETERA.

SO THINGS HAVE CHANGED FOR THE BETTER, BUT THE BUILDINGS ARE FALLING APART.

THE CONDITIONS ARE AWFUL.

VIOLENCE HAS BEEN A HUGE PROBLEM THIS YEAR.

SO IT'S -- THE ANSWER IS THAT IT'S KIND OF A MIXED PICTURE.

WE'VE GOTTEN THE POPULATION DOWN.

THERE'S UNDERSTANDING, BUT THERE'S STILL DEEP SEATED PROBLEMS THAT HAVE TO BE UNWOUND.

REUVEN, I'VE GOT A MINUTE LEFT.

APOLOGIZE FOR SUCH A TIGHT TIME FRAME, BUT WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE FUTURE OF RIKERS?

THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION.

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IS TELLING.

THERE'S A MOVEMENT OUT TO LIMIT THE USE.

AND YOU'RE SEEING INCREDIBLE PUSHBACK.

EVEN THOUGH THE RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT PUTTING PEOPLE IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR SUCH A LONG TIME CREATES THIS PROBLEM.

EMBLEMATIC OF RIKERS TO SOME DEGREE.

PUSHBACK TO THE WHOLE SYSTEM.

THE LOCATION, THE THERAPY.

THE RESEARCH SHOWS THE WAY WE'RE DOING THINGS DOESN'T WORK, AND YOU KNOW, THERE'S JUST PUSHBACK.

AND EVEN ON THE SMALLEST MOST BASIC LEVEL, THERE'S A LOT OF PUSHBACK.

NOW THEY'RE TALK ABOUT -- TAKING OVER.

THAT'S BEEN PUNTED DOWN THE LINE.

I THINK THAT IS POTENTIAL THAT'S REALLY -- RIGHT NOW, AND THAT COULD REALLY --

WELL, ONCE AGAIN, WE CAN TALK FOR HOURS.

ONCE AGAIN, THE BOOK IS CALLED 'RIKERS: AN ORAL HISTORY.'

IT'S A COMPELLING AND FASCINATING LOOK AT ALL OF THESE ISSUES WE'VE TALKED ABOUT.

WELL REPORTED, WELL WRITTEN.

GENTLEMAN, GREAT.

AND MARTIN AND ANGEL, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING SCHOOL BUS US AND LENDING YOUR VOICES.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

YOU BE WELL NOW.

THANK YOU.

ALL RIGHT, TAKE CARE.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,

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