Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hard Time

As I've mentioned, the tug boat I work on tows or pushes around an oil barge, delivering oil of all kinds to customers of all kinds.
Barges come in all shapes and sizes and are used for carrying everything under the sun. I've carried, sand, lumber, sugar, truck parts, whole trucks, lumber...the list goes on.
But there is one particular barge I see quite regularly and it always catches my eye like no other.
If you were heading up the East River from New York and before entering Long Island Sound, you would pass a very unusual barge.
It carries people.
Actually, it doesn't carry them anywhere, it is permanently tied up to a dock.
It's a prison.
Talk about being "up the creek without a paddle."

Can you imagine that? I mean, seriously, how bad IS your luck if you get sentenced to prison and then the prison they send you to is a steel box that floats.
Of all the things a convict has to worry about while in prison, now he has to worry about sinking too.
This prison barge is called the Vernon Bain Center and it sits between Queens and the Bronx.
This unusual prison came about because Rikers Island, which sits in the East River and is home to many of New York's correctional centers, found itself overflowing with inmates.
If you look closely at the caged in area at the top, they have basket ball courts up there. That's where they go for their free time, which is an hour a day.

Rudy Giuliani, who was the Mayor of new York at the time, came up with the idea of putting the 800 extra prisoners on a barge, in the river.
You may remember Rudy, he became a presidential candidate a few years ago.
He happened to be the Mayor of New York on 9/11, and because he got on TV while walking through the devastation in the streets, somehow that made him a hero, which in turn made him a possible presidential candidate. Go figure.
Thank god only 6 people voted for him in the primary's.
Only in America can that happen.
I'm guessing, only in America, would there be a prison barge.
I could be wrong.


slommler said...

Hmmm! Now that is weird! A prison barge?? Amazing! And you are so right. I can only imagine the look on their faces when they see their new "home"!?! LOL!! Well, at least they have some amenities. Basket ball courts indeed?!

Frau said...

I had no idea ....I have to say it's a brilliant idea.

clairedulalune said...

Mark, this is something i did not know! A floating prison eh? I would be in the same frame of mind as you if i was a inmate there! As well of basketball games maybe swimming lessons? Hope all is well for you Mark and have a good week!

beth said...

actually....if you love water, could it be any worse than a regular prison ?

think of the water views and a little rocking to help you sleep at night.....

and basketball outside with a water view....better than the views at the regular prison.....

and if you're a good swimmer, just think of all the daydreaming you'd have of your prison escape by being able to hold your breath for 5 minutes...they probably time each other during their lunch breaks with this activity...."oh that joe, there he goes again turning blue, but hey, he had the best time of 3 minutes and 45 seconds"

OH....there I go again....trying to the see positive in everything :)

dcpeg said...

Fascinating! Wonder if the idea will catch on.

Anonymous said...

At a cost of $161 million to build, or $201,250 per bed, the Vernon C. Bain Center (aka VCBC and formerly the Maritime Facility III, or MTF 3)is so costly as a pre-trial jail that I don't think too many coastal jurisdictions will opt for it as a reasonable alternative to a permanent, land-based jail.

Its distance from any courthouse, like the jails on Rikers Island, make transporting defendants to hearings and trials a logistical and budgetary nightmare.

The predecessor MTFs were a converted troop transport used by the British during the Falkland/Malvines Islands War and Staten Island Ferry boats that were diverted from the scrap heap to warehouse inmates at docks on Rikers Island and Manhattan. The problems maintaining those boats were so severe that they were eventually abandoned as soon as the jail population declined from its high point of 22,000 in the early 1990's to its current level of about 14,000.

The idea for these boats came originally, not from the Giuliani Administration, but from the Koch Administration in reaction to court orders to reduce overcrowding in the jails that led to a release of about 600 misdemeanants in 1983, after which Mayor Koch vowed to avoid future releases by building as many jails as necessary. However, when the jail population skyrocketted in the 1980s from under 10,000 to 22, 000, the City had to scramble to construct or acquire any kind of jail space that they could get their hands on.

Hence, the jail budget in NYC is about $1 billion per year, give or take.

Mark said...

Anonymous- Did I just receive a scolding? I guess I stand corrected. Thanks for the informative comment. My point basically was, it's an unusual place to house prisoners. At least I thought so.