Indy Radio, Rikers Edition: Suicide Crisis and Law-and-Order Judges

By Indypendent Staff Oct 28, 2021

Click here to read “Why Rikers Has Unraveled” by The Indypendent News Hour Co-host Amba Guerguerian.

Already in 2021, 14 incarcerated people have died on Rikers island, making this the deadliest year in the penal colony since 2015, when 16-year-old Kalief Browder killed himself after being jailed there. 

At least half of these recent deaths were suicides. Negligence on the part of the Department of Correction and their staff members have led to deterioration conditions of the ten jails on the island since the onset of the pandemic. Guards are often not stepping in to stop attacks, fights or incidents of self-harm. Nicholas Feliciano and his family can attest to the fact this was a problem since before the pandemic and ensuing staffing shortage.

Nicholas Feliciano was sent to Rikers for a parole violation in 2019, when he was 18 years old. In December of that year, he attempted to kill himself and was visibly hanging in his cell for 7-odd minutes before anyone did anything to help him get down. The Board of Corrections, the Department of Corrections’ oversight body, just released a report on the incident stating, “the circumstances of this incident are disturbing and starkly illustrate persistent issues in the City’s jails.” 

On this week’s edition of The Indypendent News Hour on WBAI-99.5 FM, we spoke with Madeline Feliciano, Nicholas’s grandmother Joshua Carmoega, Nicholas’s uncle, and David Rankin, who is representing them in a lawsuit against the city.

Then, we were joined by writer and researcher Matt Thomas. He is the author of the Vulgar Marxism Substack and a keen observer of the workings of the judicial machinery in New York.

After steadily trending downward for many years, the population of incarcerated people on Rikers Island is once again rising — a contributing factor to the ever-worsening conditions in the jails — even though the majority of detainees have not had a trial. This is due in part to the role of law-and-order judges and the politicians who help them rise through the judicial ranks. Thomas speaks about one judge in particular, Rhonda Tomlinson, who played quite the significant role in filling cells at Rikers and is now moving up the judicial ladder.

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