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200 Rikers Jail Inmates Protest Poor Conditions, Decline Meal Service

About 200 detainees at New York City's Rikers Island jail complex continued a protest Tuesday, unusual in its size and organization, against continuing poor conditions at the troubled complex, as frustrations mounted over a COVID-19-imposed quarantine. The detainees, who began their protest Saturday, are refusing meals provided by the Department of Correction, though they are getting food from the commissary, reports the New York Times. The protesters said that they have not been allowed outside for weeks. They are seeking to highlight unhygienic conditions and frequent violence.

Detainees described dangerous conditions as the temperature has dropped and COVID-19 has spread throughout the facility. Over 370 detainees have recently tested positive for the virus, and less than half of the total population is fully vaccinated. “It just gets worse and worse,” said Nelson Pinero, 55, adding that vermin such as mice and water bugs frequently interrupted his sleep. “I don’t wish this upon nobody,” he said. The large-scale protest illustrates the challenges faced by new Department of Correction Commissioner, Louis Molina, as he takes control of a department that has lurched from crisis to crisis for decades. About 5,400 people are held at the facility, the vast majority of them pretrial detainees who have not been found guilty.

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