The award-winning documentary RIKERS: An American Jail was first broadcast on PBS stations in 2017. Since the film’s initial release, there has been widespread discussion and debate about the future of the prison complex. In April 2017, The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform released its recommendations and called for closing Rikers and replacing it with smaller jails in the city’s five boroughs. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also called for the closure of the notorious jail, as has New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but said it will take a decade to do so.
These developments led Bill Moyers to return to television in May 2018 with an updated introduction to the film as well as to a roundtable conversation with criminal justice experts. These video elements are described below and can be viewed here in their entirety.
Watch Bill Moyers introduce RIKERS:
The United States is facing a crisis of mass incarceration with over 2.2 million people packed into its jails and prisons. To understand the human toll of this crisis, Rikers Island is a good place to start. Of the more than 7,500 people detained at Rikers Island on any given day, almost 80 percent have not yet been found guilty or innocent of the charges they face.
All are at risk in the pervasive culture of violence that forces people to come to terms with what they must do for their own survival. RIKERS: An American Jail brings you face to face with men and women who have endured incarceration at Rikers Island. Their stories, told directly to camera, vividly describe the cruel arc of the Rikers experience — from the shock of entry to the extortion and control exercised by other inmates, the oppressive interaction with corrections officers, the beatings and stabbings, the torture of solitary confinement and the many challenges of returning to the outside world.
Watch RIKERS: An American Jail
Following the broadcast of RIKERS on PBS, Bill Moyers was joined by criminal justice experts to explore the choices New Yorkers face as the city rolls out plans for four new/expanded jails throughout the city to replace Rikers Jail.
Moyers speaks with Johnny Perez, featured in the RIKERS documentary and now Director of US Prison Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, as well as Michael Jacobson, former NYC Corrections Commissioner and Probation Commissioner and currently director of the CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance, and Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President of The Fortune Society.
Watch RIKERS: What’s Next?
Host a Screening
Hundreds of organizations are now hosting screening events. If you would like to plan a group screening, request a free DVD by contacting Colby Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please be sure to visit the official RIKERS website for more information about the film, mass incarceration in America and efforts at criminal justice reform. Also, please like @RIKERSfilm on Facebook and follow @RIKERSfilm on Twitter to get the latest information and contribute to the already robust online community talking about the film.
RIKERS, which recently won a 2017 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award, is a production of Schumann Media Center, Inc. and Brick City TV LLC, in association with Public Square Media, Inc. Produced by Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin, with producer Rolake Bamgbose. Edited by Jason Pollard. Director of Photography Mark Benjamin. Executive Producer, Judy Doctoroff O’Neill. Executive Editor, Bill Moyers.