Fight brews over mail policy at Rikers Island

Protestors in lower Manhattan, looking to ensure proper mail delivery at Rikers Island.
Protestors in lower Manhattan, looking to ensure proper mail delivery at Rikers Island.
Urban Justice Institute

Activists are looking to ensure that inmates at Rikers Island can continue to get mail, after the city has taken action to extend a controversial measure that limited access to communications with the outside world. 

The measure had all mail sent to be scanned and presented to inmates on a virtual tablet by inmates. In addition, the law required all packages be sent to an off-site facility to be inspected for potential contraband, and limited the list of vendors that would be eligible to send packages to inmates. 

Despite the concerns, the Department of Corrections has looked to extend the order, which was instituted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It’s not currently clear whether the courts will grant the DOC’s request. 

Advocates gathered in Lower Manhattan to protest the request, and noted the porous conditions on Rikers Island existing outside of this particular law. 

So far this year, 18 inmates have died on Rikers — marking the most in a single year in nearly a decade.  

As family members look to contact their loved ones locked up inside the prison, they have been deterred by the current rules. 

And inmates reportedly have not received the proper notice of their mail being delivered to them. 

All of this comes as the federal government is mulling a takeover of the prison. 

A federal judge held a hearing on Thursday between federal officials and city lawyers looking to keep control, but no decision was reached. 

Advocated, meanwhile, have lamented the situation, and have called for a federal takeover — something the city government has resisted. 

“The conditions in the jail remain dangerously unsafe and the Monitoring Team remains gravely concerned about the alarming number of in-custody deaths, violence among people in custody, lack of an effective restrictive housing model, and various facets of the Department’s use of force practices and operational practices,” the report said.

For more coverage of Rikers, head to amNY.com.

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