Voices From New York City's Most Notorious Jail: Former Prisoners Speak Out About Abuse at Rikers Island

A new PBS documentary, Rikers, brings you face to face with men and women who have survived incarceration at New York City’s largest and most notorious jail. Their stories are told directly to the camera without any additional narration. A dozen former inmates vividly describe the cruel arc of the Rikers experience — from the trauma of entering the island to the extortion and control exercised by other inmates, to the harrowing interactions with corrections officers. They also detail the beatings and stabbings, the torture of solitary confinement and the psychological difficulties of re-entering the outside world. For more, we’re joined by award-winning independent filmmaker Marc Levin, director of the new documentary, Rikers.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We spend the rest of the hour looking at New York City’s Rikers Island, one of the largest jails in the United States. On Tuesday, ABC7 here in New York aired exclusive video of a 36-year-old man named Rolando Perez, who died in his Rikers jail cell in 2014 after being denied anti-seizure medication. This is a part of ABC7’s report.

RIKERS INMATE: Let them know that the officer refused his medical attention.

CAROLINA LEID: In this exclusive video obtained by Eyewitness News, you can hear inmates telling investigators they heard Mr. Perez screaming for his medication, pills he relied on since he was 16 years old to control a severe seizure disorder. The 36-year-old died in solitary confinement after getting into a fight with another inmate. He was under arrest for petty burglary back in January 2014. He had not been convicted of a crime. An autopsy found he died of a severe seizure and heart problems.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Rolando Perez was being held at Rikers for the suspicion of robbing a television. His family is now suing New York City.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we turn now to a new documentary called Rikers. It brings you face to face with men and women who have survived incarceration at New York City’s…

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