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Rikers Island Deaths – The Dark Heart of a Broken System

November 27, 2022

File:USGS Rikers Island.png

Aerial view of Rikers Island prison complex, Source National Map Seamless Server, Author US Geological Survey (PD)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Rikers Island in the East River hosts New York City’s primary prison complex [1].  Eighteen prisoners have died there this year [2].  Most deaths were those of black and Hispanic men, reflecting the prison population at large.

Questionable Death

These questionable deaths principally resulted from drug overdoses, complications of pre-existing medical conditions, and suicide.  What else could or should have been done to prevent them has not been fully determined.

Population Size

Given a budget of $860 million, Rikers handles an average daily population of 10,000 inmates from approximately 100,000 admissions annually.

The majority of prisoners are pretrial defendants not yet convicted of a crime, and those remanded to custody, i.e. held without bail.  The rest are serving short sentences.

Violence and Disorder

Violence and disorder at the facility are common.  There have been numerous assaults by inmates on staff.  In 2015 alone there were over 9000 such assaults.

Inmate Abuse and Neglect

Rikers Island is notorious for the abuse and neglect of inmates. Prisoners are known to have been beaten and raped.  They have at times done without food or medical care.

Multiple investigations have been conducted over the years, and multiple court rulings handed down relative to reforms.  But problems at the facility persist.

The Legacy of Sin

Clearly, this a broken system, unlikely to rehabilitate any within its dark confines.  The innocent and the guilty are equally bereft.  Indeed, those nominally in charge seem hardly better off, as a chronic shortage of correction officers confirms.

This is the cruel and savage underside of the world in which we live, the sordid legacy of sin.  But this is the world Christ came to save.

The Son of God took upon Himself the sins of the world, restoring the relationship between God and man.  Faith in Him goes beyond mere “rehabilitation”.  It is transformative, freeing Christians from the bonds of sin and death, and giving us a new nature (Rom. 6: 6) [3].

“...I will…give You as a covenant to the people…To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house” (Isa. 42: 6-7).

[1]  Wikipedia, “Rikers Island”,

[2]  New York Times, “Tracking the Deaths in New York City’s Jail System in 2022” by Jan Ransom and Jonah Bromwich, 11/4/22,

[3]  Got Questions, “Does a Christian have two natures?” by S. Michael Houdmann and the staff of Got Question Ministries, 4/29/22,


  1. Allan Halton permalink

    “O, Lord Jesus, how long, how long,
    ‘Ere we shout the glad song…”

  2. Jer. 17:5-10 comes to mind (it reads excellently in the Common English Bible)… Thanks, Anna.

  3. Ich danke Dir sehr für Deine immer bewegenden Worte, alles Liebe, Marie

  4. It’s hard to fathom a daily, rotating population of 10,000. Yet that is just a snapshot of the overall prison situation in America. Ironic, isn’t it? The country that has been blessed far above all others also has such a huge prison(sin) problem.

    Great post Anna

    • Thank you, Ron. I always value your input. The human heart is corrupt, as the Bible says. Only God can replace our hearts of stone w/ hearts of flesh (Ezek. 11: 19).

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