Inside Rickers


Rikers is one of the largest correctional facilities in the world. Jennifer Wynn’s Inside Rikers: Stories from the World's Largest Penal Colony seeks to explore the lives of prisoners in the facility. The book is not only a social commentary but also a memoir in which Wynn outlines how the over 18,000-inmates facility transformed from cruelty to safety. Wynn does so from a journalistic perspective. This is a summary of the facts that Wynn presents and a reflection on the interesting parts of the commentary. The writer realized that keeping inmates in small doses of drugs was more expensive than treatment. She did so by understanding the psychological and social attributes of prisoners’ behavior. She proposes a fresh start for the facility.


Jennifer Wynn’s book explores the lives of prisoners before they are arrested, during their incarceration and after their conviction. Overall, the writer is an advocate of the rights of inmates and reformation of criminal justice system (Wynn, 2002). In the book, it is evident that she first sought to understand the inmates. She writes that most prisoners were formerly drug dealers or addicts, were not well educated, came from non-functional families or had been previously jailed. In this regard, she proposes that better education, economic empowerment and family support would drastically reduce the number of prisoners.

Other than early life experiences for the prisoners and economic inequalities, Wynn observes that the correctional facility itself contributed to further deterioration of inmates’ lives. Specifically, Wynn’s book criticizes the way Rikers handled the question of drug addiction for the addicts. She found out that the facility ran Key Extended Entry Program (KEEP) that sought to keep drug-addiction prisoners in small doses of methadone for their entire stay in the facility (Wynn, 2002). According to her, this was more expensive than actually treating them.


There are many interesting episodes presented in the book. These include the heart-warming narratives from the prisoners themselves. Moreover, the most interesting thing for me is the transformation of Jennifer Wynn from a ‘dispassionate journalist’ to a compassionate teacher. Although she was trained as a journalist, she changes her career following her empathy for the inmates. It is also interesting to note that Wynn teaches male inmates. She understands them more than the authorities do. As a result, she dedicates her life in speaking for them as in Rikers Review.

My opinion is that there should be an overhaul transformation of correctional facilities. I tend to think that seclusion from one’s family is enough punishment. People should not be taken to Rikers for punishment but as a punishment. Their rights should be guaranteed. Above all, New York authorities should empower all citizens economically.

In conclusion, Wynn speaks for the inmates. She pushes for better economic lives which would ensure that people do not commit crime or sell drugs. In the moment one is arrested for an offense, they should be treated with dignity. They have a right to health and treatment arising from drug addiction. Finally, those who are released from the prison should be well integrated with the society. Wynn writes that society should accept them because they are now corrected and disciplined individuals.

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