Article Analysis Essay on Closing Rikers Island

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1452 Words
Date:  2023-03-03


I have chosen to analyze the article Closing Rikers Island on the New York Times. This choice is because of my passion for understanding justice systems, government investment priorities, and leadership patterns. The article explains the circumstances, arguments, policies, and politics surrounding incarceration trends in New York. It states why the jail complex at Rikers Island and other prisons need to be closed.

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The Article’s Premise

The major premise of the article is that the crime rate is dropping is New York, and; since prisons are the most used crime deterrents, they may soon be unnecessary. The article then applies deductive reasoning and considers that since living conditions at the jail complex at Rikers Island are inhuman and too isolated, it needs to be closed. About the measures that should follow the closure, the writer highlights the possibilities of having new jails built or expanding the existing prisons (The Editorial Board, 2019). Given recent Democratic reforms that seek to reduce jailing, the article understandably foresees that building new jails could only help if future administrations fell back to policies that promote incarceration.

Evidence Presented

The article has presented evidence gathered from news articles, books, research publications, and general knowledge. For instance, in showing the falling crime rates, it emphasizes that there were 2,245 murders in New York in 1990, but just around 250 murders in 2019 until October. Commensurate to the crime patterns, the writer reports that in 1991, there were more than 20, 000 detainees in the city's jails compared to today's approximately 7000 prisoners. The writer also presents an arithmetic syllogism that there was a 30 percent decline is crime and incarcerations between 2013 and 2018 and proves this in the data provided after that.

Another set of evidence provided is when the writer gives reasons why Rikers Island is not the ideal prison if prisoners were to choose. Firstly, it is not expandable because it lies close to an airport runway. Secondly, the island's name has been synonymous with torture and violence for decades. To eke out the weight of this argument, the writer gives a brief history of the island, stating that it previously was used for slave trade. It provides the example of Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old boy who was incarcerated at Rikers for three years for stealing a backpack. After prison, trauma pushed the boy to commit suicide (Venters, 2019).

The Credibility of the Evidence

The evidence provided above is credible and independently verifiable. For example, the crime rate data is correct from most of the other available literature. The information is accurate as provided on the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) website here. Also, in his book, The City That Became Safe: New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, Franklin E Zimring reiterates the same story with a similar data set. From Franklin's book, the performance of security in NY is even more appalling; there was an 80 percent drop in crime between 1990 and 2015 (Zimring, 2013). By deciding to include Kalief Browder's story in the article, the writer makes the evidence more believable since it is a story that caught the attention of many New Yorkers.

Addressing Counterarguments

Opposing arguments form in the articles come from community members who hate the idea of having prisons set up in their neighborhoods. Another set of opposition is from activists who insist that the government should close Rukers without building any new prisons. They argue that if the government invests more in education, housing, and mental health, crime rates will naturally dwindle. Another source of opposition is former Police Commissioner William Bratton, who insists that most prisoners are dangerous individuals who should be kept away from other people-in Rikers.

To address these counterarguments, the article opines through the seemingly best approach to Closing Rikers. It suggests that before closure, existing prisons need to be expanded and upgraded to be more humane. Apart from Rikers, the existing prisons are old and do not offer assimilation programs to allow prisoners to rejoin communities when released (Venters, 2019) seamlessly. In the extreme, a few new facilities may be necessary to ensure that prison environments in NY are humane and that available facilities allow for flexibility in future policies.

Does the Writer Represent a Particular Interest?

Yes, the writer advances the interest of prison system abolitionists, who believe that judiciary reforms and other interventions will work to provide different ways of deterring crime than incarceration. It says, "it is better for New Yorkers to stay in their communities while legal proceedings are underway." If the complete abolition of prisons is not possible, the article hopes that the government makes prisons as comfortable as possible for inmates. It expresses compassion for prisoners by emphasizing that human beings should not be moved too far from their families and support systems.

Specifically, the arguments presented echo those that the Prison Abolitionist Movement champions for. The movement aims at replacing prison systems with rehabilitation mechanisms such as restitution to victims, probation, supervised release, and community work. They also advocate for Prison condition reforms to make the jails more humane and inhabitable.

How Language Is Used to Develop the Argument

The writers' biggest tool in this article is the use of formal language. The article lacks emotion, thus appears knowledgeable, authentic, well-thought, and well-researched. The writer further uses a mixture of stylistic and language devices to inspire, intrigue, and persuade readers. Firstly, they apply exaggerative imagery; for example, they use 'most sweeping change" to describe a comprehensive change.

There is also the use of connotations, like "plummet" for "drop" to make the decline appear more dramatic. Also, when telling the story of Browder, the writer applies Euphemism and replaces "Black-American" with "African-American" to make the phrase less offensive for the described group. The text also employs anaphora for emphasis. They use "safer for inmates, safer for guards" to stress how safe it is going to be to have prisons in ordinary neighborhoods. By mixing these and more language tools with statistics and data, the argument gets perfectly put across.

Errors in Knowledge, Evidence, and Thinking

The writers commit some errors and leave gaps in presenting their argument to the reader. For example, they claim that it not incarceration that caused a decline in crime rates, but they claim to give examples of what may have caused it. A reader would expect to see the article mention improvements in policing, investment in quality education, abortion legalization to reduce unwantedness, among other interventions. The other gap is that they do not indicate the exact source of the data provided, and the reader has to do a parallel search to verify sources. Lastly, the article states that incarceration caused more crime, but does not go further to show the cause and effect.

Types of Appeals or Fallacies Committed

The first fallacy committed is Cum Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc. The number of prisoners indeed was highest when the crime rate was highest, and the two appeared to increase simultaneously in the early 1990s. However, this coincidence could not mean that prisons caused more crime, as the article claims. There exists data showing that prison deters crime, and released prisoners pause significant threats to the receiving communities. Generally, 70 percent of ex-prisoners collide with the law soon after getting home, and 50 percent of them eventually land back in prison. Partly, the dwindling crime rates in NY can be attributed to the increased incarcerations that worked analogously with efficient policing.

Further, the writer states that Staten Island does not have jails because its residents represent a minor portion of prisoners. This analogy is weak, and the generalization is misleading because the counterargument is still not true; that areas with high crime rates have prisons.

Overall, How Compelling Is This Article?

Yes, the article is quite compelling. The writer organizes the story in a convincingly, chronological manner. The lede is powerful and solemn, followed by a relevant value proposition. In the introductory paragraphs, the article engages the reader and guides the reader on how vital the topic of the prison is to him (reader). The foundational information is very informing and readies the reader for the evidence that follows, which is also presented in a genuine and persuasive tone. The word choice is clear, concise, and meaningful and uses no generic observations. Lastly, its use of suspense is also on point, and the reader keeps on reading the story to learn what comes next.


The Editorial Board (2019). How to Close Rikers Island. Retrieved November 22, 2019, from

Venters, H. (2019). Life and death in Rikers Island.

Zimring, F. E. (2013). The city that became safe: New York's lessons for urban crime and its control.

Cite this page

Article Analysis Essay on Closing Rikers Island. (2023, Mar 03). Retrieved from

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