Monday, January 26, 2009

Breaking Out of Rikers

Horrifying allegations in the NYT about Rikers Island, where guards are alleged to have run a unit for teenagers "like an organized-crime family", with themselves as the bosses. Three officers are now charged in relation to the death of an inmate, allegedly at the orchestration of the conspiracy they ran.

Laura Appelman notes that this dynamic had real implications when she was a public defender. Rikers holds many inmates who are merely accused -- warehousing them until they can be tried and (if convicted) sentenced. She says that many of her clients rapidly plead guilty after experiencing Rikers -- feeling it preferable (and safer) to go to prison upstate than to stay on the island. Obviously, some (probably many) of these clients were guilty anyway. But some might not have been, and in any event the criminal justice system doesn't work when people plead guilty merely because they're being terrorized during the duration of their trial and simply want it end as fast as possible.

No comments: