I worked at Rikers Island for two years as an attending physician. Your article captures very well the condition of the jail and the ineptness of the correctional services. Why are those responsible for running the facility providing ineffective security for inmates, staff and civilian workers?
Having worked in correctional health care for 25 years, I found the medical services at Rikers to be top notch, with very dedicated mental health care providers caring for inmates who were frequently homeless and addicted to drugs.
The atmosphere, however, was like the Wild West. I was physically attacked by an inmate. Inmates freely cuss out staff and contract employees. This caused a feeling of moral and professional helplessness.
It seems that the easy way out is to build new jails. However, unless the people at the top are held accountable, I fear that the same dangerous conditions will continue to plague New York City citizens who are arrested and the staff who try to deliver services to them.
Michael Borecky New York The writer is a cardiologist.
To the Editor:
In the late 1970s as project director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society, I was part of a team of lawyers who brought lawsuits challenging conditions of confinement at New York City’s jails, including those at Rikers Island.
Our litigation led to the closing of the notorious “Tombs” in Lower Manhattan and culminated in a series of consent decrees that applied to all jails, including those on Rikers. These court orders at least ensured basic health and sanitation and a modicum of decency and safety.
We also advocated for the sale and closing of Rikers Island decades before closing it was the official policy of the city. However, the city broke its promise to comply with these decrees, and after the passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (which restricted the ability of inmates to file lawsuits), it persuaded the courts to largely terminate these decrees, leaving the detainees on Rikers Island without essential judicial oversight. The tragedies now unfolding on Rikers Island are the direct result.
Opinion ConversationQuestions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.
Michael B. Mushlin White Plains, N.Y. The writer is a professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.
The Joy of Audiobooks: ‘My Soul Has Soared on the Currents of a Voice’
I was delighted to discover that I am far from alone in taking joy in audiobooks, a lifesaver during these long months of Covid.
Twenty years ago, I found an affordable but dark apartment that served perfectly well as a place to crash at night. But it is now office and home 24/7. And the darkness weighs heavily.
When I’m not working at a computer screen with all the lights turned on, I’m outside in the sunlight. Central Park has been my go-to place for long sanity-preserving walks.
Coming to the discovery of audiobooks wasn’t immediate, though, as I had been a bit of a purist. First there were the current events podcasts, then deep dives into the BBC’s collection of history podcasts and now historical fiction.
Hours and many miles later, my soul has soared on the currents of a voice, like listening to a bedtime story, of times and places that once were or may have never been.
Phyllis Lee New York
To the Editor:
I could not agree more with Farhad Manjoo’s column. I become so immersed in novels being voiced by excellent actors that I often realize that I have inserted myself into the scenes, voicing out loud my own comments or responses to the characters.
Of course, the characters do not respond to me but continue their own conversations as though they had not heard me. But that’s OK.
I can see the seductions of a clarion voice reading a book while one is cooking, housecleaning, waiting for sleep, etc. But it would be sad to inculcate that alternative in teenagers and younger readers as an alternative to reading the classics of world literature. It would only add to the current resistance to attaching ourselves to the written word, with social media already overwhelming us.
I want to add the intensity of my voice in support of vaccine mandates. I will fly only airlines that have mandated employee vaccinations. And the first airline to mandate passenger vaccinations will get my business. And I will drive long distances to fly out of any airport that mandates vaccinations for entry.
There is a reason the James Bond films have been so successful in the past, and now. Agent 007 traveled all over the world and we, as moviegoers, traveled with him.
We skied the Swiss Alps, gambled in lavish casinos and sailed to exotic islands in faraway places. Accompanied by a memorable musical score and advanced technology we could actually understand, the movies always turned out to be a great ride.
James Bond films provided us with escapism. In today’s challenging times, that’s what many of us need.