ANNA HAS MADE the trip to Rikers hundreds of times in the nearly six years her son has been awaiting trial. Each time, a friend picks her up early in the morning near her apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and drives her out through the city, past the brick houses and manicured lawns of northwestern Queens. They park near the Q100 bus stop and sit silently in the car until the bus pulls up.
On weekends, there’s always a line pushing to get on the bus — almost all women, many with small children, most black or Hispanic. Anna doesn’t rush to the doors like the rest; she has made this trip often enough to know that if you get on last you’ll be the first off when the bus reaches its destination. It’s only one stop, anyway.
The bus runs fast down a narrow bridge, passing the city’s fading skyline on the left and the tarmacs of LaGuardia Airport on the right. Within minutes it stops again and several uniformed men approach with guns and dogs. A large officer gets on the bus and asks attorneys and jail staff to get off. Then he reminds everyone else that this is the end of their “amnesty” — their last chance to get rid of any contraband without risking arrest.
“Happy Sunday,” he ends flatly but loudly. “Welcome to Rikers.”