I am excited to announce the coming release of my book Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage (448 pp., Verso) on May 17th.
From the jacket: "Captives combines a thrilling account of Rikers Island’s descent into infamy with a dramatic retelling of the last seventy years of New York politics from the vantage point of the city’s jails. It is a story of a crowded field of contending powers—city bureaucrats and unions, black power activists and guards, crooked cops and elected leaders—struggling for power and influence, a tale culminating in mass incarceration and the triumph of neoliberalism. It is a riveting chronicle of how the Rikers Island of today—and the social order it represents—came to be."
I also am highly honored to have the book released to this advance praise from a number of excellent activists and scholars:
“Captives is an amazingly detailed journey into a New York City jails system fueled by capitalist greed, political expediency, and racist exploitation. Conditions have deteriorated on Rikers Island even compared to the oppressive and inhumane environment that I experienced detained as a 16-year-old member of the New York Panther 21. Jarrod Shanahan’s incisive history challenges us to thought and action. The longer Rikers stays open and the push for new carceral facilities continues, the longer our collective humanity remains caged.”
“Rikers Island has the same relationship to New York as his picture did to Dorian Gray in the famous story by Oscar Wilde: the notorious super-jail is the grotesque face of the institutional cruelty and racism that lies behind so much of the Big Apple’s preening dazzle. Shanahan, who personally experienced Rikers’ violence, has crafted a masterpiece of synthesized social observation, analytic history and political critique. Now that the city has a new mayor who loudly champions the jailers and bad cops, Captives is urgent and obligatory reading.”
“Shanahan’s lively must-read explains the power politics shaping New York City’s municipal lockup frenzy.”
“Captives reveals the long history of racial oppression and unaccountable violence in the Rikers Island jail complex that has been hidden in plain sight … This extraordinary book demonstrates the centrality of jails to life in New York City.”
“Captives is more than a history of the notorious Rikers Island; it is a riveting, caged bird’s-eye view of the tumultuous shift from postwar liberal dreams of penal reform to neoliberal punishment, police power, and the rise of the carceral state. Ultimately, it is a book about class struggle—how we got from ‘build better’ to ‘lock ’em up’ to ‘shut it down.’”
“Captives is an important and timely book that vividly depicts how decades of class struggle and oppression, especially along the lines of race and gender, shaped the rise of Rikers Island as we know it today. A must read!”