Rikers Island jail is extremely controversial and not simply because it houses inmates. According to recent reports, at least nine incarcerated inmates have passed away this year behind bars. Over half of the currently incarcerated population also reports having a mental illness. Even worse, the average wait time in Rikers Island Jail for a trial is an unbelievable 260 days.
The population at Rikers Island jail has only continued to increase despite already housing too many people.
Unfortunately, these issues aren’t hidden or some newfound revelation for the lawmakers in New York City. For years, advocates have been pushing for the closure of Rikers. Plans were in place to start disassembling the old jail and constructing a new, more humane system for New York’s accused, but the Covid-19 pandemic got in the way.
As things have slowly started to return to normalcy, efforts to re-initiate the closure of Rikers have been reborn. The chair of the Commission to close Riker, Jonathan Lippman, says that “The jails there hurt public safety and endanger the lives of everyone inside their walls. They are a stain on the soul of our city.”
While intentions are in the right place, the physical infrastructure to support the closing of Riker isn’t quite there yet. The commission has been hard at work attempting to build some borough-based jails to replace Rikers. Construction delays have continued to postpone plans, and insufficient treatment beds continue to pose problems for the commission. Despite that, advocates are adamant that these new jails will offer a more effective system as well as more humane conditions.
On top of these efforts, advocates are focusing on attempting to give inmates the speedy trials they are entitled to under the law. Faster trials mean fewer people in jail. According to statistics from August of 2023, about 87% of the current Rikers Island jail population are pretrial inmates, meaning they are simply awaiting trial.
What Rights Do Inmates Have?
The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution is clear – individuals accused of crimes have a right to a speedy trial. The Constitution doesn’t expound on this issue, but the federal Speedy Trial Act as well as some state laws also help to provide some guidance on this issue. In general, it wouldn’t be considered a violation of an inmate’s right to a speedy trial when the reasons for the delay are substantiated.
Inmates also have other rights despite being incarcerated including the right to humane living conditions, the right to be free from sexual crimes, the right to medical attention as needed, and the right to appropriate mental health care.
Inmates also have the right to express complaints about their living conditions.
If you’re currently an inmate who believes your rights are being violated, then your best bet is to contact a criminal defense attorney who can help. The right lawyer will make sure you understand your rights and help you seek justice if your rights are being violated in jail.
Schedule a case review with our team now to discuss your situation with one of our attorneys.