On WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday morning, fill-in host Manoush Zomorodi was doing a segment about yesterday’s Department of Justice report on the rampant abuses, corruption and civil rights violations of adolescent inmates at Rikers Island.
Toward the end of the segment, around the 26-minute mark, Zomorodi goes to the phone lines to take an anonymous call from a man who claims to be an inmate at Rikers. The man never reveals his age or why he’s at Rikers, only that he’s “in the midst of a trial.” He speaks with a slight New York accent and begins by talking about the building that the teenagers are housed in:
I was in the four building which the building that houses the teenagers it’s half teenagers half adults They’re just now trying to change that and make it all teenagers and then people over 50. The problem is that the [correction officers], they’re not trained as everyone has said, and the kids can get unruly and of course it’s peer pressure and…what I will say is the COs are very good about not keeping the kids separate from the adults because they always say you know is that one of these kids could turn around and just stab you. They’re kids they’re in a box and where they’re put is terrible. And they’re constantly screamed at all day long. It’s negative energy in these kids heads all day long. Screaming, screaming screaming you’re bad you’re bad you’re bad. Eventually they just believe they’re bad and they act out…
He is then asked if inmates are aware of the recent reports about misconduct at Rikers.
No, no one talks about it. I listen to your station every day. No, they’re not aware. Most people don’t even know what NPR or WNYC is here.
He also asked what reforms he’d like to see.
To educate them more, to see these kids learn how to grow up, not to grow up in a prison but to grow up in a way they’re aware what outside of crime is. They live in a bubble and their bubble is prison, these streets. And they don’t know enough how to get out of that bubble. So I would want them to be more aware of the world. Whether it’s math or whether it’s politics or whether it’s anything… some of it will seep in, some of those kids will get help and some of them will get out of that bubble, whether it’s 10 percent or 1 percent at least someone is saved. But most of them get out and as your guests said, they get out they come back in and most become career criminals.
The man is asked whether he’s seen any changes at Rikers.
Since the commissioner came into office, the four building that houses the teenagers was being painted — they were superficially cleaning it up — painted, cleaning the floors, because if a reporter or somebody comes in they want it to look good. They’ve been shipping all the inmates that aren’t teenagers out…the four building is what houses the teenagers. So they’ve been moving all the other adults to other buildings. So it causes problems there is what they called an overload so there’s too many people in other buildings. The one things I do know they’re implementing, is maybe, with access room, is to train the kids more. I don’t know what their plan is on getting the adults out. They’re kids so they all wear brown uniforms, so there is no peer pressure in terms of fashion. They try to keep them the same.