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Protesters call for closure of New York’s Rikers Island prison



Hundreds of protesters have staged a rally in New York, calling for a notorious prison there to be shut down over the inhumane treatment of its inmates.

The protesters marched through Queens streets on Saturday, denouncing the deteriorating conditions at the scandal-plagued Rikers Island prison facility.

They said that solitary confinement and sexual assaults were rampant at the prison, adding that the conditions of mentally-ill inmates were appalling there.

“It’s a six-by-nine-foot cell,” former inmate Johnny Perez, 37, said of the facility’s solitary confinement. “People have died from heat exhaustion. It gets so cold that it’s hard for you to sleep because you have limited blankets and clothes.”

“For decades, the notorious Rikers Island Jail Complex has been marked by violence and corruption and impervious to substantive reform,” read a Facebook event for the march.

On September 16, six former correctional officers at the facility were sentenced to state prison for their role in the beating of an inmate in 2012.

Lawyer Louis Albert (C) speaks during the trial of nine Rikers Island prison staff accused of viciously beating a black inmate, Jahmal Lightfoot, in July 2012 and covering up the incident at the Bronx County supreme Court Criminal in New York, March 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP) 


Five were found guilty in June of first degree gang assault, attempted assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, falsifying business records, official misconduct, and an effort to cover up the attack. A sixth officer was found guilty at a later bench trial.

The former officers Eliseo Perez, Alfred Rivera, Tobias Parker, Jose Parra, David Rodriguez, and Gerald Vaughn received prison sentences ranging from four and a half to six and a half years.

Another two former officers, Harmon Frierson and Dwayne Maynard, were sentenced to 500 hours of community service for covering up the assault. Jeffrey Richard, a ninth indicted officer, was acquitted of all charges.

In July 2012, the inmate, Jahmal Lightfoot, was taken to a search area where there was no video surveillance. Two of the officers pinned his arms and legs to the floor while three others kicked him in the face dozens of times, fracturing his eye sockets.

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