No Escape

Hundreds of Rikers Island inmates are in solitary confinement, under conditions that can cause serious psychological deterioration. Rasaun Bullock’s torments during 49 months in the hole cost him his right to a speedy trial.

The New York World

In his Bronx courtroom, Judge William Mogulescu stores case files in standard-issue gray cabinets, each drawer labeled with the year the cases within it originated. The oldest, “2008,” is nearly empty, with the exception of a bursting and battered legal-size folder.

Inside sit the traces of a court case that has stretched on for more than four years, through at least a dozen motions, four lawyers, five judges and nearly 50 court dates. That does not include the four civil rights suits filed in federal court by the defendant, who entered the court system on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. 

This file encompasses the harrowing story of Rasaun Bullock, a now 39-year-old man from the Bronx who spent more than four years incarcerated on Rikers Island. He endured at least 49 months of those in solitary confinement.

“I have been locked in a room 24-7 for 2008 to present (today is 2011),” Bullock wrote in one of his civil rights complaints. “DOC yells at me & say they say you crazy- and that makes me sad & mad upset (very sad & upset).”

The astonishing length of Bullock’s incarceration and legal proceedings has gained him notoriety in this Bronx courtroom. So has his relentlessness in pursuing justice. “In all the years I’ve been on the bench, he is the only defendant that got my chambers’ number and was able to call my chambers,” said Judge Mogulescu, who has presided over the case since September 2011. “I have no clue how he got it.”

Read the rest here

Homicide: The New York World tour

How does a plunging New York City murder rate look from a global perspective? We chart the numbers by neighborhood – from Libya to Poland to Vietnam.

The New York World

The NYPD closed out 2012 with some very good news for New Yorkers: with just 419 killings across the boroughs, the city’s murder rate has dropped to 3.8 per 100,000 residents, lower than it has been in 50 years.

But residents of East Harlem might as well be living in Brazil. In both places, the homicide rate is more than five times as high as New York City’s average. University Heights, the Bronx, has more in common with Russia than nearby Washington Heights: both had murders at a rate of more than 10 per 100,000 residents. Continue reading

Sick and in solitary

Rikers Island is home to a surge of mentally ill inmates, hundreds of them assigned to live in isolation. Did the city miss a chance for better treatment?

The New York World

Last summer, a 25-year-old robbery suspect at Rikers Island took a ball of concentrated soap meant to clean his jail cell and swallowed it. Jason Echeverria had been held for two months inside the Department of Correction’s Mental Health Assessment Unit for Infracted Inmates, where the confined typically spend 23 hours a day on lockdown. By swallowing the soap, Echeverria hoped to spring himself from his confinement; instead, for 20 minutes a corrections supervisor ignored his condition as he became violently sick and eventually died from the poisoning. The city’s medical examiner has found that the lack of immediate medical treatment constituted a homicide. Continue reading

Subsidizing Starvation

How American tax dollars are keeping Arkansas rice growers fat on the farm and starving millions of Haitians.

Foreign Policy

PHOTO PACKAGE 10 OF 12 Sixteen year old

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake exactly three years ago, former U.S. President Bill Clinton issued an unusual and now infamous apology. Calling his subsidies to American rice farmers in the 1990s a mistake because it undercut rice production in Haiti, Clinton said he had struck a “devil’s bargain” that ultimately resulted in greater poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.

“It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked,” he said. “I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did.”  Continue reading

The NYPD’s impobable cause

Is the NYPD violating New Yorkers civil rights one summons at a time? What the geography of 350,000 pink slips in New York City reveals. 

The New York World

Lindsey Riddick of Flatbush estimates he’s been to 346 Broadway, one of the city’s half  dozen summonses courts, at least six times to pay off pink slips police officers have handed to him. Trespassing, disorderly conduct, loitering — the charges kept coming. Three years ago, he spent two days in jail after a warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to pay one of the tickets.

The 36-year-old’s experience is far from unusual. In 2011, the New York City Police Department issued more than 350,000 tickets sending recipients to court for minor infractions like these, and in the last 15 years cops have issued literally millions of these tickets.

Still, even Riddick, a substance abuse counselor in-training, was stunned on the August evening that he received a ticket for standing in front of his own home. Continue reading

Judge: City must pay for failure to produce documents

The New York World

A federal judge has castigated New York City’s Law Department and imposed a $10,000 fine for failing to produce documents relevant to an ongoing lawsuit brought against the city by a former Rikers Island inmate, Kadeem John.

The sanction imposed last week is an unusual development in a legal battle that has drawn attention to ongoing inmate-on-inmate brutality at a Rikers Island detention facility for juveniles, and alleged collusion by Department of Corrections employees.

In June 2010, 18-year-old John was severely beaten by another inmate while serving time at the Robert N. Davoren Complex for a probation violation resulting from jumping a turnstile. He suffered bleeding in his brain and internal organs, including a laceration to a kidney. Continue reading

Protests Hit City Targets

Wall Street Journal


The demonstrations were largely peaceful and recalled some of the unpredictable events the movement staged while it was based in an open-air encampment for two months last year in Zuccotti Park. There were drum circles in Bryant Park, sidewalk protests that spilled into traffic and a march across the Williamsburg Bridge. Continue reading

New Search in Etan Patz Case

Wall Street Journal


Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal

By Sean Gardiner, Maura R. O’Connor and Danny Gold  

Dozens of investigators descended on a SoHo building Thursday in a renewed search for evidence in one of New York City’s most troubling mysteries: the unsolved 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz.

The scene at Wooster and Prince streets in Manhattan on Thursday after FBI agents and NYPD personnel descended on the area.

More than three-dozen Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and New York Police Department officers began what is expected to be a days-long search and excavation of an unoccupied basement less than two blocks from the missing boy’s home.

“We’re looking at what the warrant elaborates: human remains or clothing or effects of the young boy who disappeared after leaving his house in May 1979,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

The search has not only rekindled an infamous case, it also shifted the focus of the investigation, at least temporarily, from a convicted child molester to a neighborhood handyman.

The trail had long grown cold in the decades since Etan went missing on the morning of May 25, 1979, while walking two blocks alone between his Prince Street apartment and his school bus stop. Although the boy was declared legally dead in 2001, a body was never found. Continue reading

NYPD Stops Affect Young Minority Men

Wall Street Journal

—Maura R. O’Connor contributed to this article.

The New York Civil Liberties Union gave new ammunition to critics of the police tactic known as “stop and frisk,” charging Wednesday that city officers performed more stops of black males ages 14 to 24 years old than the total number of such men living in the five boroughs.

The NYCLU analysis represented one of the most detailed breakdowns of the New York Police Department’s effort to combat crime through stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people suspected of street crimes. The data were drawn from the NYPD’s internal stop-and-frisk files, for which the NYCLU successfully sued. Continue reading

“Homicide Watch” 

Columbia Journalism Review

Reinventing the homicide beat for the digital age







Mico Briscoe. Black. Male. 18. Shot on November 26, 2011.

Marcellus J. Darnaby, aka “Boom.” Black. Male. 32. Shot on June 15, 2011.

Lucki Nancy Pannell. Black. Female. 18. Shot on February 19, 2011.

These are just a few of the 152 homicides currently listed on In the coming months and years, that number is sure to increase. Since September 2010, Laura Amico, the site’s founder, has tracked every single homicide that has occurred in Washington, D.C., from the day that it occurred until the perpetrator’s arrest and conviction.

Continue reading

“Two Years Later, Haitian Earthquake Death Toll in Dispute”

Columbia Journalism Review

Journalists can do a better job reporting controversial numbers in disaster zones

Fifteen miles north of the National Palace in Port au Prince, along Haiti’s azure coastline, is a place called Titanyen. From Kreyol, this name translates to something like “less than nothing.” Titanyen feels practically barren, mostly dusty hills with some farmers herding animals. On one of these hills looms a large cross with strips of black cloth tied to it. These rags flap in the breeze like a murder of crows, memorializing the victims of the 2010 earthquake who are buried at the spot in mass graves.  Continue reading

“Operation Spring Rain” 

Pacific Standard

U.S. soldiers work to undo some of the damage done to Afghanistan’s agricultural communities from decades of war.

Samuel Rance speaks with a twang and his favorite band is Tool. One morning last spring, he was sitting at a picnic table on Forward Operating Base Salerno in eastern Afghanistan, seven months into his deployment. His team had just finished Operation Thrasher, a training class in composting for farmers in the nearby city of Khost. Behind him were several acres of wheat and fruit trees, and a greenhouse. He and his team members — the Indiana National Guard’s 3-19th Agribusiness Development Team — had planted the grain and the trees, and built the greenhouse. Beyond the farm were the barracks for some of the 5,000 soldiers and civilian contractors stationed at Salerno; behind the barracks towered the mountains that form the border with Pakistan. Most mornings, Apache helicopters riddled the hillsides with rockets for target practice. Continue reading

“A New Dawn for Haiti Tourism?” 

Caribbean Journal 

Courtesy of Caribbean Journal

When Dominican business entrepreneur Frank Ranieri wanted to get involved in tourism in the 1970s, he crossed the border into Haiti to see how it was done. “[Haiti’s tourism] was bigger than in the Dominican Republic,” Ranieri says.

Today, the tourism empire he built in Punta Cana is one of the most popular destination spots in the Dominican Republic. Out of 4 million annual tourists in the country, the resorts there receive 2.2 million. The Punta Cana International Airport (the world’s first privately owned) brings in $350 million in taxes for the Dominican government each year.

Meanwhile, Haiti’s tourism industry is essentially nonexistent today, a fading memory after decades of political instability, economic stagnation and natural disasters. Continue reading


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