PHOTO: Kodi Barth
Grim signs plaster the final stretch of the road leading to the island.

Captive Audience

It costs New Yorkers $860 million a year to run an island that is only half the size of Central Park. Yet few can even find it on a map.

Just 11 miles from the raised torch of Lady Liberty, Rikers Island houses 15,000 or so "special" residents, making it the world's largest penal colony.

With schools, medical clinics, ball fields, chapels, gyms, grocery stores, barbershops, a power plant, a tailor, a bus depot and even a car wash, Rikers is virtually a city of its own.

A glance at the history
Visit the island.
A man speaks about his experience while visiting a friend in Rikers.

See: A slideshow of Rikers More

Visit: Multimedia Center More
An Island Full of Secrets
There are as many tales about Rikers Island as there are visitors to it. What really lies beyond that little-known bridge mounting the East River? More
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Meet some of Rikers' former residents. More
• Learn about the island's past. More