Jail should not be a comfortable sleep-away camp, of course, especially since the criminal justice system in this country is aimed more at punishment than reform, but what prisoners are asked to undergo at Rikers Island is simply a violation of their human rights.
There have been reports of rampant assault and sexual abuse inside the facility. And why are these individuals held there and subjected to this torture? Often because they couldn't make bail.
According to Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who represents parts of Queens and Brooklyn and joined a protest to call on officials to close the jail complex, an estimated 80 percent of those detained at Rikers Island have not been convicted of any crime.
The bail system in this country is broken, and it's leaving far too many innocent people or those charged with a very minor crime to rot away in a cell in a prison that's routinely labeled one of the worst in the country.
There simply has to be a better way to detain New Yorkers. We're not even talking those convicted of a violent crime, we're talking kids sometimes as young as 17 that have been picked up because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When Kalief Browder was 16 years old, he was accused of stealing a backpack. While he was never convicted of a crime, he spent three years in the jail complex, two of which were spent in solitary confinement. A short time after being released, Browder took his own life.
That should have been the beginning of the end of Rikers Island, but instead there will be more and more cases like Browders.
It's time to find solutions, whether it's opening several small, well-secured complexes or building a new state-of-the-art facility that protects both the inmates and the guards.