Since writing about the ruling to transfer Paul Manafort from a minimum-security federal prison for nonviolent offenders in Pennsylvania to the notorious Rikers Island state prison in New York, I’ve received many responses from horrified readers asking, “Isn’t there anything we can do?”
Rikers Island is consistently on the list of the ten worst prisons in the U.S., and for years, many have been calling for it to be shut down. For a 70-year-old, nonviolent, white-collar criminal who is no threat to anyone to be sent there is shocking. I wanted to know more about what this really will be like for Manafort and turned up an article about his transfer by someone who spent a year there himself.
The author is apparently an expert of sorts on prisons, having been incarcerated for a total of ten years, one of which was at Rikers. It’s every bit as dangerous and nightmarish as I imagined it would be. And, apparently, being in “PC” (protective custody) is even WORSE than being in the general population, as it’s extremely restrictive and the word “protective” is a joke to anyone who’s determined.
One very rarely encounters a nonviolent inmate there, and someone like Manafort –- white, wealthy and defenseless –- is going to be victimized for his money. Almost everyone there will be a threat to him, as they’ll all be trying to extort money from him. Woe to him if he doesn’t come up with whatever they demand. And many of these convicts are lifers, “visiting” temporarily from upstate prisons while they await additional trials; they have nothing whatsoever to lose and see these trips to Rikers as what the author calls “hunting safaris.”
The main point of the article isn’t that Manafort shouldn’t be there; it’s that NO ONE should be there –- that Rikers should be closed down --- and that perhaps the notoriety of this case will call more attention to that. (Hm, so Manfort’s being used again.)
I’m fine with Rikers being shut down. But, personally, I’d like to start with getting Manafort out of there, because he absolutely does not belong and will probably die there. This is not an appropriate punishment for the kind of crimes he committed. Period. In the final analysis, he ended up there because he dared to chair Donald Trump’s campaign and this is just a way to get at Trump.
So, what can we do? An online search fails to turn up any petitions to stop this, but I’m not sure a petition would do any good in this case. I did see that there are petitions for EVERYTHING (well, almost everything; not this). We could start one, but the person behind this travesty, Cy Vance, Jr., is too busy virtue-signaling to all his Trump-hating friends to care what we think. In fact, he’d probably be giddy to think he’s upsetting us with this shameful stunt. Either something has to happen to publicly embarrass him over this and make him look indescribably bad, or Manafort’s lawyers are going to have to get a favorable ruling from some judge who has jurisdiction and who actually cares about civil liberties.
I hope Manafort has some extremely aggressive lawyers. No doubt they won’t be as aggressive as those lifers at Rikers Island, but this is going to take a serious fight. They need to be aggressive enough to win the day in court, and soon.
In the meantime, we’ll be looking to see if there really is anything we can do. There is a Paul Manafort Defense Fund, set up last year by his longtime friends, that you might want to check out. It has a lot of archived news stories about the investigation and his trial, but nothing yet about this transfer to Rikers. I hope they update it right away.