Self-Reliance and Food Management in Rikers Island

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The existence of Rikers Island has great significance for the economy, society, and justice system in the United States. The institution was established in the mid-17th century with objectives of rehabilitating offenders and managing individuals with mental illnesses. Since its inception, the facility has stood the test of time, modernity, and the increasing number of prisoners awaiting trial. Currently, the development of the station has been done on more than 400 acres of land with the management budget of $900 million per annum (Haney, Weill, Bakhshay, & Lockett, 2015). The finances attribute to the high population of inmates, in particular, more than 100 000 per year, that requires the operations workforce of more than 10 000 officers. The jail complex does cost the city a significant part of the budget.

Since government spending on the jail complex is high, Rikers Island attracts the public attention. Moreover, judicial criticisms are also forwarded as opponents argue that the institution neglects, abuses, and assaults individuals’ rights (Jeffreys, 2018). The sentiments have necessitated the state to consider closing the place by redistributing prisoners to small jails across New York. It is expected that smaller amounts of money would be spent on managing the same number of prisoners if they were placed in small jails across New York. However, Rikers Island remains integral in rehabilitating criminals and reducing crime in the state since it equips them with essential skills for self-employment and development, and if the jail complex is closed, the neighborhoods face the risk once the prisoners manage to escape.

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Essentially, Rikers Island provides a second chance to inmates who want to rebuild their lives. The complex ensures a conducive environment for individuals to learn new skills which will empower them economically after serving their jail term. One of these skills is farming whereby inmates engage in eco-friendly cultivation of different crops such as vegetables. The expansive land and location of the jail offer an ideal place for farming. Hence, it is possible for prisoners to experiment, learn, and master essential crop growing skills (Siegel & Bartollas, 2015). The inmates prepare the land, plant seedlings and manage them, and harvest on time. They engage in teamwork and share duties and responsibilities in the farm. The drives cultivate a more responsible way of living among prisoners as they strive to become conscious citizens in society.

The institution has partnered with organizations such as the Horticultural Society of New York to equip inmates with greenhouse technology, enhance quick learning, and implement farming programs. Partner agencies that specialize in the preparation of seeds to fruition positively influence plant development education that the Rikers Island embraces. Moreover, they prepare inmates for employment in landscaping when they report improvement and show mastery of greenhouse farming. Approximately over 200 individuals volunteer daily to participate in the farming program. Since the institution is home for more than 10 000 inmates, about 2% of the whole prison population who likes to engage in farming will be denied an opportunity to improve their lives if the jail complex closes it permanently (Sarat, 2017). Although costly, the farming program is an essential long-term venture that inmates can exploit to become accountable and productive. Borough jails do not provide such an opportunity as they have limited space for farming activity, hence depriving the prisoners their maximum farming potential. Overall, Rikers Island directly contributes to the rehabilitation of inmates by equipping them with self-reliance skills in greenhouse farming.

Besides being the institution that helps practice and polish farming skills, Rikers Island is self-sustaining in the provision of fresh fruits and vegetables to prisoners, which improves their health and mental capabilities. In comparison to Rikers Island, borough jails lack space for gardening, and hence, they rely on the government for provision of food materials to inmates. Often prisoners from small jails in New York engage in hunger strikes claiming that they have a limited menu which lacks fresh vegetables (Siegel & Bartollas, 2015). Unlike borough institutions, Rikers Island boasts of quality and fresh food harvested from the institution’s farm. As a consequence of having a diverse menu, Rikers Island prisoners rarely strike due to food-related problems. As a concerted effort, they engage in agriculture to grow their desired food products. The program becomes cost-effective for the state, as governmental funding on fresh fruits and vegetables is unnecessary, as well as targeted at a healthy diet of inmates.

Most importantly, the farming plan in the institution aims at meeting the health needs of individuals suffering from nutrition-associated conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and specific food allergies among others. Also, during the process, the majority of prisoners direct their energy to agriculture, which prevents idleness-related violence within the facility. All the inmates, including those with physical disabilities, participate in the program on different capacities; planting and uprooting vegetables require less physical exertion (Haney et al., 2015). As prisoners appreciate their efforts in growing plants, they give value to fruits and vegetables and, hence, consume consciously. As a result, there is excess food from the prison’s farm, and it is donated to the less privileged people in the society, such as the wounded warriors. In total, Rikers Island has retained its primary mandate of changing the lifestyle and the eating behaviors of prisoners by motivating the prisoners to engage in farming activities and by providing quality, wide, and balanced diet from its farming programs.

Specifically, the closure of the institution and management of borough jails will be costly to the state in the long-term. The distribution of more than 100 000 prisoners to different regions of New York is expensive since the security details will be involved during the operation. In the process of trans-locating inmates, there is a high likelihood of a security breach, implying that the prisoners may escape. The fugitives will further endanger people lives for a number of them were murders and thefts in the past. Rather than implementing the plan aimed at distributing the prisoners to other jails, the state should target at reducing the primary number of inmates in Rikers Island. In particular, the sixth-month wait of processing some cases overcrowds the institution, which calls for extra budget. The majority of prisoners in Rikers Island have committed petty crimes (Hass, Moloney, & Chambliss, 2016). For such a reason, cases should be determined within the shortest time possible; offenders should be eligible to participate in community services rather than being incarcerated in the institution.

Expanding the centers to integrate high numbers of inmates in Rikers Island will increase the budget. Instead, Rikers Island has already established infrastructure and personnel to cater to the needs of all inmates. Critics state that the jail is overcrowded; however, the jail complex operates in a tight budget which is not enough for renovation to make it more comfortable for a more abundant population. It is also argued that the jail officers abuse and neglect prisoners. If such cases did occur, how one can be sure that similar mistreatments would not happen in small jails, other than in Rikers Island. Hence, it is evident that this argument to the jail complex closure is unreasonable.

The management of inmates in one region is cheaper as compared to that of borough centers. In practice, the self-reliance element of Rikers Island is reflected in food production which lacks in other jails. In essence, the government will incur extra expenses in the provision of food materials. Failure to meet the nutrition demands of the inmates will result in frequent riots and go-slows that contravene the rehabilitation act in New York. In such a scenario, the redistribution of prisoners is not the solution to the challenges experienced in Rikers Island (Jeffreys, 2018). One of such issues is the failure of the judicial system to prosecute offenders on time, which increases the cost of holding them in Rikers Island. Hence, rather than targeting at relocating the prisoners from the jail complex, the government should facilitate faster handling of cases to reduce the number of inmates.

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Self-Reliance and Food Management in Rikers Island. (2022, Jul 26). Retrieved from

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