Letters: The View from inside Rikers
The View From Inside Rikers
Graham Rayman's 'Rikers Fight Club' [February 4–10] sheds much-needed light on what many of us already know: Excessive force, intimidation, and abuse of power are part of the fabric of life on Rikers Island.
Many were shocked by the fatal beating of 18-year-old Christopher Robinson and by charges that correctional officers orchestrated the attack. Moreover, Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn seems eager to characterize the Robinson murder as an anomaly.
However, for those of us who live and work on Rikers Island, we know that instances of both neglect and outright violence by correction officers are commonplace.
The authors of this letter are six current inmates at Rikers and one volunteer service provider. We are therefore intimately familiar with the violent and dehumanizing conditions at the jail.
We believe that, although incidents of violence such as Robinson's murder are especially egregious and tend to capture a disproportionate share of media attention, other gaps such as a scarcity of academic programs and neglect of the needs of those with mental illness point to a basic lack of respect for inmates.
Pressed in November about his inability to curb violence among young inmates, Horn snapped, "I run the jails. I don't provide care." His comments were dangerously ignorant, but that attitude is pervasive at Rikers. We believe that providing care must be an integral part of running a jail. If we are to have any hope that those involved in our criminal justice system can re-enter society with the ability to lead healthy, productive, and lawful lives, we need to ensure that they are provided with services that help, rather than hinder, those goals.
[Editor's note: The writer, fearing repercussions, requests anonymity.]
James Lieber's 'Up in Smoke: What Cooked the World's Economy?' [January 28–February 3] is a must-read. He has detailed how a single trading tool, and Congress's kiss-ass treatment of President Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin got us into this financial mess. If they would have heeded the words of regulator Brooksley Born, back in the '90s, maybe we could averted the catastrophic consequences our nation now faces.
One of the best articles the Voice has run in ages. For the past few years, I've been wondering why your cover stories were so doggedly irrelevant and out of touch with the issues facing New York, let alone the nation. Lieber's story hits the nail on the head and then some. Please, more of this! Robbins's analysis of the Gillibrand appointment was also top-notch. Please keep printing stuff the mainstream can't or won't.
Derivatives are zero-sum. They move wealth from the loser of the derivatives contract over to the winner. Same money, just moved from one player to the other. There is no destruction of wealth in derivatives as far as the broader economy is concerned. Money may have moved between players, but it hasn't been destroyed. Thus, derivatives inside one economy can't crash that same economy. This means that derivatives by themselves can't be responsible for an economic downturn.
For that, one needs to look at actions such as the decline of the price of one home for sale that brings down the prices/values of homes that aren't for sale at all, or to other non-zero-sum events, such as the destruction of credit availability. Are the Voice's readers and authors up to that much of a mental challenge?
Lieber's article is by far the best analysis of our current crisis that I have read. He traces the historical roots in a lucid manner and explains complex financial instruments very clearly. Great work! Unfortunately, I agree with his pessimistic outlook.
We seem to be carpet-bombing financial companies with taxpayer monies without much effect. We plan to bail out the large dysfunctional states—Michigan, California, New York, and New Jersey—whose out-of-control spending politicians have brought them to bankruptcy. The Recovery Act legislation is tref; so much pork, it oinks. How many generations will it take to pay off this debt?
Get a Job, Caroline
Re Tom Robbins's 'New Senator, New Scandal' [January 28–February 3]: I'm glad that a real politician got the Senate seat, instead of another rich dilettante—better a congresswoman who earned her position than one of the Upper East Side's "ladies who lunch"! Perhaps Caroline Kennedy can go out and get an actual job (McDonald's is hiring! And UPS always needs truck loaders!) before she tries to be a senator!
Gregory A. Butler
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