Cecily McMillan On Brutality And Humiliation On Rikers Island
I RECENTLY served 58 days of a three-month sentence on Rikers Island. I was convicted in May of assaulting a New York City police officer as the police cleared Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Street protesters in 2012. (I am appealing my conviction.) I got a firsthand experience that I did not seek of what it is like to live behind bars. Rikers is a city jail; it holds some 11,000 inmates who are awaiting trial or sentencing, or who have been convicted and sentenced to a year or less of time. During my incarceration, two correction officers were arrested on charges of smuggling contraband, including drugs, to inmates. The week after I was released, two more correction officers and a captain were arrested on charges of having beaten a handcuffed prisoner into unconsciousness in 2012. Last week, The New York Times reported on the “culture of brutality” on Rikers. The city is now investigating more than 100 reported violent assaults on inmates. None of this would surprise the inmates of the Rose M. Singer Center, the women’s barrack on the island, who routinely experience or witness brutality of all kinds. On one day in May, I was waiting outside the jail pharmacy for my daily A.D.H.D. prescription. A male officer began harassing me, and when I made the mistake of looking at his badge to get his number, he slammed his body into mine and shouted a sexual slur at me.