Loud and dangerous, Rikers Island jail greets IMF chief

Strauss-Kahn will be transferred from a detention centre attached to the Manhattan Criminal Court to Rikers Island, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction said.

Strauss-Kahn will probably be held in isolation with 24-hour watch, in large part for his own protection from inmates who might seek fame by attacking someone famous, according to people familiar with the jail operations who would not speak on the record.

A complex of 10 jails on a 415-acre island near LaGuardia airport, Rikers is well-known to watchers of television and film crime dramas as the place where criminal suspects are sent pending trial or to serve short jail sentences.

Dating to the 1930s, the Rikers complex holds about 11,000 inmates on any given day.

The Tombs

Both Rikers and the courthouse detention centre, best known as “The Tombs”, are harsh, loud and dangerous.

“It’s crowded and the food is terrible. And one of the dangerous things is famous people are preyed upon,” said Gerald Lefcourt, a well-known defence attorney, referring to both places.

New inmates undergo a thorough assessment of their history and criminal associations. Guards look for tattoos or other signs of gang affiliation.  Jail officials then assign a score to determine the inmate’s security risk.

Low-risk inmates tend to be housed in crowded dormitories holding dozens of people. Strauss-Kahn will very likely be able to wear his own clothes, and bring books with him to jail and read the newspaper daily. Common rooms have television.

A typical meal will include meat and vegetables with plenty of starch on the side to help prisoners feel full.

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