Advocacy groups fight to get better care for people with disabilities at Rikers

Center for Independence of the Disabled says disability rights are civil rights.

Ashley Mastronardi

Feb 22, 2024, 11:55 PM

Updated 142 days ago


Danielle Shanks is speaking out about schizophrenia and Rikers.
“I’ve raised my son to be this outstanding man ... as a mother to see him go through this mental disease that took over and he’s not being acknowledged for who he is – he's just being acknowledged for the charges that are given,” she recently told News 12 New York.
Shanks is a member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health and Justice. She says her 19-year-old son, whose spiritual name is Ifasegun, committed his first offense after being diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2023. He was incarcerated in Rikers for 8 1/2 months. Shanks says he was routinely receiving his medication three hours late.
“His experience in Rikers Island was a disbelief, due to the improper medication, he actually gained about 65 pounds...he didn’t receive the medication at a regular time and that was concerning,” she said.
Dr. Sharon Mclennon Wier is the executive director of Center for Independence of the Disabled. She says besides mental health issues, there are other disabilities present in the Rikers population.
“Disabilities like diabetes, a heart condition, that they’re not getting medicines like insulin to sustain their life ... we have folks that have learning disabilities who may need a reading accommodation who may need to be able to sign forms,” she said.
McLennon Wier says the immediate solution is to get people the help they need now and the long-term solution is to close Rikers. According to the Katal Center, 30 people have died at Rikers since the start of 2022.
Sources close to the New York City Department of Correction say they’ve processed more than 300 requests for reasonable accommodations made by persons in custody. They said some of the requests take a long time to address – for example CPAP machines require sleep studies that can take months to schedule. Also, sources say Correctional Health Services ultimately determines whether there’s a medical need for accommodation.
Shanks says she can rest easy these days since Ifasegun was transferred to a mental health facility upstate.
“It seems as if he’s being cared for there, the attention, he’s part of these programs that is helping him, he’s learning so much more about the history of how mental health can affect and what the best way is to seek attention,” she said.
CIDNY says disability rights are civil rights. It say it hasn't filed a lawsuit against Rikers, but it'll continue to rally.

More from News 12