Cover Image: Rikers


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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with a EARC copy of Rikers: An Oral History by Graham Rayman and Reaven Blau. 

If you do not cry or get angry once while reading this book, something is extremely wrong. The insight provided by former correction officers, lawyers, inmates, and wardens go into detail about what goes on in a jail that badly needs reform. As mentioned in the news, Rikers is set to close down by 2027, however, with NYC’s current mayor, it looks like that could possibly be axed (which is terrible news). Rikers is the exact reason why prison reform and funding is so important, it also is the exact reason why the mentally ill should not be sent to prison and should be placed in a mental institution where they will receive proper treatment. 

I felt a lot of anger, sadness, and frustration while reading this book. How the prisoners are treated, the overworking of correction officers, and how terrible of a visitation system that occurs. It also reminded me that both correction officers and prisoners are human. Humans who want to make a living and who didn't have such a wonderful life and turned to crime. Both should be treated with respect and this book will make you feel all of this. I am so glad and lucky to have read this and to hear the stories. So you need to read this if you get the chance.
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An infuriating condemnation of Rikers and the prison system in general. I don't believe anyone could finish this book without understanding the urgent need for prison abolition (and the closing of Rikers). AS I WROTE THIS REVIEW, Rikers logged its 19th death this year: Edgardo Mejias, arrested for shoplifting perfume and reportedly denied proper medical care for his asthma.

An incredible amount of research went into this history, and I appreciated the statements from the wide variety of people who experienced Rikers, including admin, stakeholders, police officers, and family members (though the narrative centers the detainees, as it should). Obviously, this covers many heavy topics and disturbing cases of abuse. It also highlights the failures and inherent racism of the justice system. No wonder so many survivors of Rikers ended up working for non-profit orgs that support other prison survivors. 

My only complaint: I appreciated the lack of editorial input to a point - the interviews stand on their own - but I think this collection would've benefited from a *bit* more structure and historical context. Chapters are organized to highlight different aspects of Rikers from multiple perspectives, but it's hard to see the full picture when you're bouncing between detainees, guards, and prison admin who gave statements/are talking about experiences that happened decades apart. 

Overall though, if you can handle the mature content - this might be the most important piece of non-fiction to come out of 2023.
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Deep breath out.....this book is a long read. AT times its a hard read, to hear of the brutality, the loss of life, and the overall dehumanizing aspect of the jail, known as Rikers. 
ITs an important work, to document how the jail has changed, remained the same, and what the future might bring.

I thought it was great that the book included commentary from Wardens, guards, inmates, and family members. I thought that was very inclusive. It gave me a more well rounded picture of what was happening inside the jail. 

There was a few drawbacks....namely I wasn't familiar with RIkers and I wish that it had a map or something to help me decipher where some of the places in the jail were. 
Secondly, the last part of the book about the future was so long and drawn out, I was bored out of my mind with the maybe they will open new jails, maybe they will shut Rikers down, very long.
thirdly, out of all of the chapters that was covered (gangs, LGBTQ, slashings, escapes, guards, etc) one dealt with humanity in that there was a poetry class and an acting class....was there any other good things to come out of Rikers? GED? Anything?

Overall an impressive work that needed just a little bit of tweaking to make perfect.
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An in depth look at everything that goes on both inside and outside one of the toughest prisons in the country - Rikers. Told through numerous interviews from all spectrums - inmates, their families, correction officers, advocates, and bureaucrats. Fascinating and hard to put down. I for one will be glad to see it close. Thanks to the authors, publishers and Netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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What a well written, well rounded book. I'm glad the authors got the perspectives of numerous entities that exist in the Rikers microcosm. It is hard to read at times, and makes me angry at a dysfunctional system.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
Wow, what an eye-opening book. The amount of violence and corruption within Rikers is astonishing. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of Rikers and the chapters really show how dysfunction the prison system can be. 
It took me a while to get through this book as I had to read it in small amounts because of how infuriating it was.
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Rayman and Blau made a wonderful choice in presenting this as an oral history with limited editorializing. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of Rikers throughout its history. The testimonials seem evenly split between corrections officers, detainees, and Rikers' administration so the reader gets a well-rounded and comprehensive view of the experiences on Rikers.

It's a bit difficult to keep track of the timeframes and roles of certain contributors but that could be fixed just by including that information more often in the text. Because it is an un-edited oral history, there is some context missing in some of the chapters that could have used more of a historic background or what was going on at the time.

Overall, I appreciate that the authors took the time to meet with so many stakeholders and provide so much background on an institution that exemplifies what is wrong with the prison system. 

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.
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Rikers; An Oral History, by Graham Rayman and Reuven Blau, is a disturbing and infuriating look at one portion of what passes for a justice system in this country. 

The stories in this book, all first-person accounts of time at Rikers, tell the larger story of a system that not only doesn't work but is designed to not work. Namely because it is designed to dehumanize and abuse those who often aren't even guilty and, regardless of that, are supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Yet they are held for long periods, in abhorrent conditions, often for extended periods in solitary. This is AmeriKKKan justice.

Even if you don't support restorative justice (which would almost eliminate the need for jails and prisons) you should at least support rehabilitative justice. And what takes place at Rikers, and everywhere across the country, runs completely counter to that. This is a country that doesn't care about large portions of the population and is willing to take a person who may have committed an offense (remember the innocent until proven guilty thing?) and try to turn them into the monsters that the powers that be need them to be, all in order to keep the unfair "justice" system working to support an evil and immoral power class.

This volume is a moving tribute to those who faced this immoral and unethical monster and have survived, often to then find ways to help other victims of the "justice" system. If this doesn't make you want reform, then I don't want to know you, I prefer to keep inhuman monsters out of my life.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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Thanks to the publisher for an ARC of this book. This is an oral history of Rikers Island, the notorious prison/jail in New York. This book was infuriating and incredibly important. I hope policy makers take note of some of the observations in this book.
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Wow! I can honestly say I was surprised how good this story was and I can't recommend it enough. Great characters, great story and uncontrollable ride. A must read,!!!
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