Lockdown on Rikers by Mary E. Buser
Mary Buser began her career at Rikers Island as a social work intern, brimming with ideas and eager to help incarcerated women find a better path. Her reassignment to a men’s jail coincided with the dawn of the city’s “stop-and-frisk” policy, a flood of unprecedented arrests, and the biggest jailhouse build-up in New York City history.
Committed to the possibility of growth for the scarred and tattooed masses who filed into her session booth, Buser was suddenly faced with black eyes, punched-out teeth, and frantic whispers of beatings by officers. Recognizing the greater danger of pointing a finger at one’s captors, Buser attempted to help them, while also keeping them as well as herself, safe. Following her promotion to assistant chief, she was transferred to different jails, working in the Mental Health Center, and finally, at Rikers’s notorious “jail within jail,” the dreaded solitary confinement unit, where she saw horrors she’d never imagined. Finally, it became too much to bear, forcing Buser to flee Rikers and never look back – until now.
Lockdown on Rikers shines a light into the deepest and most horrific recesses of the criminal justice system, and shows how far it has really drifted from the ideals we espouse.