Did You Know About the 800 Prisoners Held on the East River Barge?

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Blog, Breaking News, Uncategorized.


by Nora Bosworth

Riker’s Island is well known to New Yorkers, both in lore and in the news. Yet its counterpart, a $161 million barge that houses an approximate 800 inmates, has gone largely unnoticed as it bobs on the East River.

Apparently the jail at Riker’s addresses overcrowding in their main complex by holding hundreds of prisoners on the Vernon C. Bain barge, the Gothamist reports. The barge has actually been around since 1992, but many New Yorkers are unaware of its presence. It houses medium to maximum security inmates, and floats about a mile from the SUNY Maritime College.

There was one documented breakout from the vessel, but it was short-lived. The New York Times reported in 1992 that a prisoner managed to escape from the ship, by slipping out of his handcuffs and clinging on to the underbelly of a departing bus. He was captured and incarcerated again a few weeks later.

Vernon C. Bain has a basketball court on the top deck, along with a library and recreation facilities for the 100 cells it contains. Perhaps the conditions are preferable to being landlocked while doing time. As one inmate, Angel Velazquez, 37,  put it to the Times, ”We live large on the barge.”

Photo by reivax. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

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