EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Isaabdul Karim wasn’t sentenced to death. In fact, he was never sentenced at all. But after the father of two was accused of a nonviolent parole violation and sent to Rikers Island, on September 19, he became the 11th person this year to die in a New York city jail.
A wheelchair user with health complications, Karim was kept in an intake cell for 10 days without adequate access to food or medication. His lawyers asked for early release in a hearing cut short when Karim suffered an asthma attack; before Karim could return to court, he contracted Covid-19 and died.
Karim is just one victim of Rikers’s horrific conditions. Nearly 6,000 people are detained there, most of whom await trial. Detainees have gone without food, water, toilets, showers, or access to lawyers and doctors. And chronic mismanagement—staff shifts are still organized on index cards—has left the prison unable to handle hundreds of employees’ calling out sick, even though the remaining officer-to-prisoner ratio is well above the national average.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.