A Brief History of Rikers Island Prison


Posted by JR Olson | Posted in History | Posted on 27-03-2015

Rycken Family’s Island in New York

The Rikers, originally the Rycken family, were a prominent Dutch family that settled in colonial New York in 1638. During the Civil War the island was used by the Union Army as a training ground for African American soldiers preparing to fight the Confederate forces. The small island was a convenient place to keep the black soldiers separated from the city’s population and keep tensions to a minimum while they prepared to fight and die for their country. The Riker family sold its 87 acre island to the city of New York for $180,000 in 1884. The island is located in the East River just off the south end of the Bronx.

Riker’s Island Put to Use

New York City expanded the island to 415 acres with landfill and began building a jail that opened in 1935. The jail started out small, but over time the facilities expanded to ten separate jails as well as numerous support facilities including bakeries and boat units. Two of the ten jails are actually former Staten Island Ferry boats moored to the island that have been transformed into floating jails to ease the overcrowding in the other jails. On a given day the jails hold as many as 15,000 inmates either serving sentences or waiting for court dates. Including guards, employees and visitors the island can swell to as many as 20,000 people. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City inmates in the laundry department pitched in by washing sheets and blankets used by people staying at nearby shelters who had fled their homes.

Colorful City Landmark

New Yorkers often refer to the jail complex as Gotham City or as Land of Darkness. These descriptive nick names are fitting considering the colorful bunch of characters that have been guests at Riker’s Island. Perhaps the most famous resident of the jail was Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon in cold blood outside his apartment. David Berkowitz, the serial killer also known as the Son of Sam, stalked and killed several New Yorkers in a gruesome reign of terror reportedly because a dog told him to. Punk rocker front man Sid Vicious spent some time at Riker’s when he was a suspect in the stabbing death of his girlfriend. Another musician, one Tupac Shukar, also spent time at the jail after being implicated in a shooting that resulted in the death of a little boy.

Riker’s Island and Popular Culture

The jail has appeared in a number of movies over the years such as the Al Pacino crime drama “Carlitos Way.” It is probably best known on television for the numerous times it is mentioned on episodes of the long running police procedural “Law and Order.” As a sign of the times, interested people can browse online comments about the Rikers jail facility on the popular review site called “yelp.” The reviews are written by a cross section of people including inmates, visitors and lawyers. A wide range of opinions are presented, but perhaps somewhat surprisingly, some of the inmates post decent reviews of Riker’s guards, facilities and even the food. Rikers has become more than just a city jail, it has become historical landmark in its own right.

Angelo Shepherd is a freelance writer based in Albany, NY. In addition to prison history, Angelo writes on criminal law, personal injury law, sentencing guidelines, bail bonds and other related issues; to learn more about the latter visit 24/7 services from Garza Bail Bonds.

Are There Ways to Slow the Greying Process?


Posted by JR Olson | Posted in Hair, Health And Fitness | Posted on 27-03-2015

Almost everyone sees his or her hair start greying at some point. Most people associate going grey with getting old, but that isn’t always the case. Some people will notice grey hairs as early as their 20s, while others may be well into their 50s before they notice any kind of greying. No matter when it happens, there will always be people who will go out of their way to hide their grey hair with hair dyes, hats, or anything else that will keep them from “looking old.”

There are plenty of companies that help people hide grey hair, but unfortunately for some, there is no way to halt or reverse the greying process. Greying stems from the loss of natural pigment cells that give our hair color. The process is as inevitable as any other sign of aging, so reversing it is as impossible as becoming younger.

Instead of trying to stop or reverse the greying process, you should instead be asking yourself if you can slow it down. Fortunately, there may be ways to make this happen. They won’t work for everybody, but you shouldn’t hesitate to give some of them a try. You might like the results.

Living a Healthy Lifestyle

In some cases, hair may be going grey because of an unhealthy lifestyle. This may be especially true for those who are greying prematurely. For example, heavy smoking can hasten the aging process, which could cause your hair to lose its color more quickly. Caffeine, alcohol and junk food can cause a similar problem since they can prevent nutrients from reaching hair follicles. If you want to keep your hair from going grey prematurely, try to quit smoking, cut down on the amount of coffee and alcohol you drink, and avoid processed junk food. While you’re at it, try to drink more water. Staying hydrated will help nutrients reach your hair follicles and keep you from going grey too quickly.

Avoiding Stress

Stress can also be a factor in greying hair. Being under too much stress is generally a bad thing anyway, so try to find ways to reduce stress in your life. Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and consider adopting relaxation techniques. You and your hair will be better for it.

Using a Mild Shampoo

If you wash your hair every day, consider switching to a milder shampoo. A lot of harsh shampoos have a negative effect on protein synthesis and can speed up the greying process. When you wash your hair with a mild shampoo, slowly and thoroughly massage it into your scalp to promote blood flow and make it a healthier environment for your hair to grow. Use conditioner in your hair after you wash to further enhance your scalp and hair.

In most cases, there’s not a lot you can do if your hair is starting to go grey. As we’ve said, greying hair is a natural part of aging. You may or may not find these tips helpful for your own hair, but many have found that they can slow the greying process down. Keep these tips in mind, and find out what works best for you.

Todd Knight writes primarily on health & wellness; he’s especially interested in hair restoration and general hair maintenance. He suggests that interested parties click here to learn more about hair restoration from a reputable source.

The Worst Blackouts in the History of Houston


Posted by JR Olson | Posted in History | Posted on 26-03-2015

Tropical storm and hurricane season for the Eastern Pacific region typically begins May 15th and runs through November 30th. During the 2013 Eastern Pacific Basin hurricane season alone, there were 18 named storms, including eight that later became hurricanes. The difference between tropical storms and hurricanes (including major hurricanes) has to do with the wind speed of the storm, with hurricane wind speeds measuring at 80 miles per hour or higher. The most recent major hurricane to hit the Eastern Pacific basin was Hurricane Raymond on October 19-23, 2013. The storm, whose largest impact was on Acapulco, Mexico, reached a maximum wind speed of 125 miles per hour.

Houston, Texas is affected by many of the tropical storms and hurricanes that originate in the Eastern Pacific basin. The powerful winds caused by such storms result in power outages and have caused some of the worst blackouts in Houston’s history.

•           Hurricane Alicia (August 15-21, 1983)  Hurricane Alicia struck the Eastern Pacific basin on August 15, 1983 and made it inland through Texas on August 18th as a Category 3 hurricane. At one point, as the storm rode through Houston, winds of 94 miles per hour and wind gusts of 107 miles per hour were recorded at Houston Hobby Airport. The storm and its resulting winds caused nearly $3 billion in damages, sweeping across a path just Northwest of US-45 in Houston. The Houston Chronicle reported five deaths were attributed to the storm, and power outages lasted up to a week for some residents.

•           Hurricane Ike (September 1-14, 2008)  Hurricane Ike arrived at the Texas mainland through Galveston Bay on September 13, 2008. Reaching a maximum speed of 116 miles per hour, the storm wreaked between $30 and $50 billion in damage and ranks as the third costliest storm in the United States (behind Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy). The storm caused the longest sustained power outage in Houston’s history, with more than 2 million power grid users affected by the hurricane. Residents experienced power outages for a period of four days to one week, as Houston area power companies worked to restore electricity. The experience of Houston residents affected by the storm related blackout was similar to the November 1965 Northeast Blackout.

•           Tropical Storm Allison (June 4-18, 2001)  Houston was most affected by the damage caused by Tropical Storm Allison, the deadliest and costliest tropical storm in United States history. The storm, which impacted Houston June 7-9, caused $5 billion in damages; of the $5 billion damage estimate amount as reported by FEMA, $4.8 billion in damages was sustained by Houston, which included: $2.04 billion in damages to public facilities, $1.76 to residential property and $1.08 billion in damages to commercial properties. The storm produced a rainfall of over 35 inches that fell for a period of six days, including a peak rainfall of 36.99 inches at the Port of Houston. The flooding and other storm related damages caused the disruption of medical services for several days due to large-scale power outages.


Gary Belmont is a freelance writer based in Seattle, WA. Though it has had its fair share of electricity troubles, there are still electric companies in Houston which offer affordable and reliable electricity service, such as Tara Energy.