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Life and Death in Rikers Island

Homer Venters, former Chief Medical Officer of NYC Jails

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Shining a light on the deadly health consequences of incarceration.

Finalist in the PROSE Award for Best Book in Anthropology, Criminology, and Sociology by the Association of American Publishers

Kalief Browder was 16 when he was arrested in the Bronx for allegedly stealing a backpack. Unable to raise bail and unwilling to plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit, Browder spent three years in New York's infamous Rikers Island jail—two in solitary confinement—while awaiting trial. After his case was dismissed in 2013, Browder returned to his family, haunted by his ordeal. Suffering through the…

Shining a light on the deadly health consequences of incarceration.

Finalist in the PROSE Award for Best Book in Anthropology, Criminology, and Sociology by the Association of American Publishers

Kalief Browder was 16 when he was arrested in the Bronx for allegedly stealing a backpack. Unable to raise bail and unwilling to plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit, Browder spent three years in New York's infamous Rikers Island jail—two in solitary confinement—while awaiting trial. After his case was dismissed in 2013, Browder returned to his family, haunted by his ordeal. Suffering through the lonely hell of solitary, Browder had been violently attacked by fellow prisoners and corrections officers throughout his incarceration. Consumed with depression, Browder committed suicide in 2015. He was just 22 years old.

In Life and Death in Rikers Island, Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer for New York City's jails, explains the profound health risks associated with incarceration. From neglect and sexual abuse to blocked access to care and exposure to brutality, Venters details how jails are designed and run to create new health risks for prisoners—all while forcing doctors and nurses into complicity or silence.

Pairing prisoner experiences with cutting-edge research into prison risk, Venters reveals the disproportionate extent to which the health risks of jail are meted out to those with behavioral health problems and people of color. He also presents compelling data on alternative strategies that can reduce health risks. This revelatory and groundbreaking book concludes with the author's analysis of the case for closing Rikers Island jails and his advice on how to do it for the good of the incarcerated.

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Life and Death in Rikers Island

Homer Venters, former Chief Medical Officer of NYC Jails

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Reviews

Reporters have virtually no access to the jails on Rikers Island, but, for many years, Venters had a rare vantage point from which to observe its inner workings... He left the city's jail-health service in 2017, and now he has written a crucially important book, Life and Death in Rikers Island, in which he examines one of the most overlooked aspects of mass incarceration: the health risks of being locked up... Venters reveals the true human cost of these colossal management failures.

Venters is a role model for using data as a tool for both epidemiology and human rights. In his book, he describes rigorous case reviews and epidemiological studies that demonstrate causes of harm... Venters's book impressively demonstrates that too little has been done at Rikers to prevent suffering, violence, and death.

The story of Dr. Venters's experience, the approaches he has taken, and his outlook on the problem of health care in the setting of mass incarceration provides a perspective that is desperately needed.

Life and Death in Rikers Island and its eye-opening analysis of the health risks of incarceration draw a powerful conclusion: in a just, fair, and democratic society, we have a moral obligation to care about the culture and justice of correctional institutions.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
200
ISBN
9781421427355
Table of Contents

Foreword, by Preet Bharara
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. Dying in Jail: Carlos Mercado and Angel Ramirez
Chapter 2. Injury and Violence
Chapter 3. Solitary Confinement
Chapter 4. Serious

Foreword, by Preet Bharara
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. Dying in Jail: Carlos Mercado and Angel Ramirez
Chapter 2. Injury and Violence
Chapter 3. Solitary Confinement
Chapter 4. Serious Mental Illness in Jail
Chapter 5. Human Rights and Correctional Health
Chapter 6. Race: Kalief Browder
Chapter 7. Sexual Assault in Rikers: Maria and Brianna
Chapter 8. Correctional Health
Chapter 9. Transparency and Governance
Conclusion. What to Do with Rikers
Appendix
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Homer Venters

Homer Venters is the former chief medical officer and assistant commissioner of Correctional Health Services for the NYC Health and Hospital System. He is currently the senior health and justice fellow at Community Oriented Correctional Health Services and an associate professor at New York University's College of Global Public Health.