The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

A prisoner is a person no matter what


Nestled in the East River, between Queens and the Bronx, is where Rikers Island stands. At 413.17 acres large, it is home to more than 12,000 prisoners. The only way to access the island is by the Francis R. Buono Memorial Bridge, where ten prisons are located. The island contains prisoners for an array of offenses, and has even housed Lil’ Wayne.

The penitentiary has multiple juvenile programs and specific prisons for adolescents. People who are awaiting sentencing and cannot afford bail are housed there. The island is almost like a community. There are schools, grocery stores, gyms, and multiple other businesses.

The threat of Hurricane Irene brought to light the unfair treatment of the Rikers Island prisoners. The surrounding areas were all advised to evacuate, yet there was no evacuation plan for the prisoners of Rikers.

In fact, there has never been an evacuation plan for Rikers Island. For a government-run facility with 12,000 some residing prisoners, numerous employees and working civilians, not having an evacuation plan is horribly irresponsible and embarrassing.

Though the storm did not cause any damage to the prison, the underlying issue still exists — the obvious lack of respect for prisoners.

No matter the crime, a person does not deserve to be forgotten and have the government dismiss their lives as not a concern. At Rikers there is a huge majority of prisoners who have not committed violent crimes, and many are mentally ill.

Even a person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by the death sentence does not deserve to die in a natural disaster due to the fact that the city decided their lives are disposable. A person who is on death row and is critically injured or ill will not be left to die. They will be sent to the hospital and nursed back to health so they can serve out their sentence the way the court sentenced it to be. This should be no different.

Our country prides itself on being humane and just. We pride ourselves on the way we treat our prisoners compared to the rest of the world. Therefore it would seem hypocritical for one of the largest penitentuary systems in the country to not have an evacuation plan for a natural disaster.

Clearly, New York State, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and our government have more important issues to attend to. Maybe they are preoccupied with pressing issues such as our failing economy, which they seem to be doing such a “spectacular” job with. It seems rather silly that someone could not take the time out of their day to create an evacuation plan – even hire someone to make one.

When it comes down to it a person is a person, no matter the mistakes they have made. No one can say that they are perfect, therefore who are we to judge the mistakes of others?

Our society has made it abundantly clear that the law is allowed to be the judge and is the ultimate reprimander — the voice of justice. We grow up being told cliché sayings such as “you learn from your mistakes,” “two rights don’t make a wrong” and of course the golden rule to “treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Yet, the law rarely takes this stance when it comes to crime and everything becomes very black and white.  

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