How Rikers Island Became the Most Notorious Jail in America

Rikers Island has never been just another jail. The compound, which sits between the Bronx and Queens, is a metaphysical and literal island surrounded by New York City's towers of wealth and industry. It's a way station for those awaiting trial, a penal colony for the poor and the criminal, the unlucky and the fucked, a void of misery that it's hard to believe sits in the middle of America's richest metropolis.

The jail's problems are well-known and longstanding: bureaucratic...

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