No Plan to Evacuate Rikers Island Inmates, Says Bloomberg


Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for 370,000 New York city residents to evacuate from low-lying areas. The city started evacuating hospitals and nursing homes in Zone A on Friday and as of 12 noon today, Saturday, the entire mass transit system of 468 subway stations and 840 miles of tracks, buses and commuter trains has been shut down. Said Bloomberg at a Friday news conference on Coney Island:

“It is going to be a very serious thing as far as we can tell now. This is going to be a very serious storm no matter what the track is.”

“Staying behind is dangerous, staying behind is foolish and it’s against the law.

However, a significant population is getting left behind, the approximately 12,000 inmates on Rikers Island, located between Queens and the Bronx in the East River. At Friday’s news conference, Bloomberg said “We are not evacuating Rikers Island.” According to the New York Times City Room blog, the Department of Corrections says that there is “no plan” to evacuate Rikers Island inmates: hypothetical evacuation plan for the roughly 12,000 inmates that the facility may house on a given day even exists. Contingencies do exist for smaller-scale relocations from one facility to another.

As Solitary Watch says, Rikers Island is, like New York’s other small islands and barrier beaches, in Zone A. However, Rikers Island “is not highlighted at all, meaning it is not to be evacuated under any circumstances.” More than three-quarters of the island is landfill — “which is generally thought to be more vulnerable to natural disasters” — according to the NYC Department of Correction’s own website. Among the inmates are many with mental illnesses, not to mention pre-trial detainees who have not yet been charged with a crime.

So what’s going to happen to them when Irene hits?

Solitary Watch cites an ACLU report about what happened to inmates at Orleans Parish Prison in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina:

The ACLU report describes a history of neglect at Orleans Parish Prison, one of the most dangerous and mismanaged jails in the country. This culture of neglect was evident in the days before Katrina, when the sheriff declared that the prisoners would remain “where they belong,” despite the mayor’s decision to declare the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation. OPP even accepted prisoners, including juveniles as young as 10, from other facilities to ride out the storm.

As floodwaters rose in the OPP buildings, power was lost, and entire buildings were plunged into darkness. Deputies left their posts wholesale, leaving behind prisoners in locked cells, some standing in sewage-tainted water up to their chests.

“The sheriff’s office was completely unprepared for the storm,” said Tom Jawetz, Litigation Fellow for the National Prison Project. “The Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did more for its 263 stray pets than the sheriff did for the more than 6,500 men, women and children left in his care.”

Prisoners went days without food, water and ventilation, and deputies admit that they received no emergency training and were entirely unaware of any evacuation plan. Even some prison guards were left locked in at their posts to fend for themselves, unable to provide assistance to prisoners in need.

After “days of fear and chaos,” the state of Louisiana ordered the evacuation of the prisoners to jails and prisons around the state, with many men first sent to the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center “where they were placed outdoors in a yard with inadequate food, medical care, and protection from other prisoners, many of whom were armed with makeshift weapons.” Prisoners attacked other prisoners as guards stood by.

Bloomberg said that “no one would be fined for violating the city’s evacuation orders” and that “nobody’s going to go to jail” — but those who are in jail will apparently be left to take their chances and ride out the hurricane.

Previous Care2 Coverage

Breaking: Hurricane Irene – Obama Calls It “A Historic Storm”

Hurricane Irene: $35 Billion In Damages?

Everything You Need to Know About Hurricane Irene


Photo by U.S. Geological Survey, via Wikimedia Commons


Keila Y.
Keila Y.5 years ago

The way inmates are treated is the same way the homeless are treated.the three meals a day is the same..but there are doup kitchens the homeless can Do something to surcive and beg.inmates are trapped sometimes for life...I belive a rapist should not get same treatment as a drugdealer. Reality is an inmate should be treated by the level of their crime.If you were caught selling weed/cigaretes continually you should not starve or lose your life cause you probably did it to feed your kids.No one knows what really happened to these people so who are we to judge? I been locked up before for a false allegation made and being innocent and working all my life I wish I had atleast 3 meals a day. I felt like an animal.animals get treated sucked now my record clean cause the person confessed to many are in.o ent like me in jail? It opened my eyes.

Keila Y.
Keila Y.5 years ago

There are people that have not been convicted and are waiting for court date.I feel the day we forget that we all have a right for life is the day we have to worry. Who are we as humans to determine/dictate who lives and die? If it were bloombergs brother or father in there he would have been evacuated.We have to remember a lot of people are innocent locked up and guilty walking the streets.These inmates got kids,families and some even got no one! We all are imperfect and can be found in that predicament even by mistake! they lose their rights as soon as those cuffs get placed you dont decide to lose your rights you just do because we as humans feel we have the right to degrade and dominate the weak..but if we turn the tables knowing you are left behind to a serious life and death situation and trapped with no chance of survival is messed up! What about the guards? They deserve to die too?they just making money for their family right..their choice to chose that job! Lol bloomberg should have stood behind with them a real captain sink with his ship and leaves no one behind.

Lindy E.
Belinda E6 years ago

How did Riker's Island fare in Hurricane Irene? What was the outcome?

Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

i can't believe all of this hate. yes they broke the law, but does that mean that we are better than them? does it mean that we shouldn't care about their safety and wellbeing. everyone who thinks so are idiots.

Lin Moy
Lin M6 years ago

Why can't they take the kids out? Surely they can at least do that!!! Ten yrs. old, come on!!

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan6 years ago

Prisoners gave up their rights when they broke the law.You cannot expect to be a menace to society and then expect the same society to look after your well being.

Fen Drayton
Fen Drayton6 years ago

Maybe, as someone said earlier today, they gave up their RIGHT to be treated like a member of society, by KILLING, or raping, or whatever they did to BE at Riker's in the first place. As for the following comment from the above article." The Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did more for its 263 stray pets than the sheriff did for the more than 6,500 men, women and children left in his care.” The ANIMALS, were INNOCENT. THEY had done NOTHING to deserve poor treatment. The two legged trash, HAD. I DO feel bad for the families of the guards and other staff, but NOT for the scum that is in prison BECAUSE of THEIR OWN actions.

Maitreya L6 years ago

Empress G, we do have the money for those things, the ultra rich are just hoarding it, and paying a smaller percentage of their income than the people who work for a living.

Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago


Empress Ginger
Ginger Strivelli6 years ago

we don't have the money to feed the homeless, give clothing and school supplies to poor help old people pay for their medications, or help disabled people get the services they need to take the burden off their we surely do not have the money to move a bunch of criminals to higher ground (or feed them 3 hot meals a-day and give them tvs and weight rooms either)