What happens when you jam almost a dozen jails, bulging at the seams with society's cast-offs, onto a spit of landfill, purposefully hidden from public view and named after the family of a judge who sent escaped slaves and free Black men to plantations in the South? Journalists Graham Rayman and Reuven Blau have spent two years interviewing more than 130 people comprising a broad cross-section of lives Rikers has touched-from detainees and their relatives to officers, lawyers, and commissioners, with stories spanning from the 1970s to the present day. The accounts that emerge call into question the nature of justice in America.
At 425 pages, the sheer number of voices in the book sometimes become repetitive and the speakers sometimes are incoherent. Nonetheless, the assembly of testimony presents a powerful portrait of a failed institution.