A hunger strike by around 200 prisoners at New York City\u0026#039;s Rikers Island jail entered its sixth day Thursday, as demonstrators continued to protest \u0022deplorable\u0022 and dangerous conditions including lack of medical care during a surging Covid-19 outbreak at the notorious lockup, where 15 inmates died last year.\r\n\r\n\u0022There\u0026#039;s no safety for us. There\u0026#039;s no one to help us. It\u0026#039;s scary in here.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022It just gets worse and worse,\u0022 55-year-old Rikers inmate Nelson Pinero told The New York Times, adding that mice and insects regularly keep him up at night.\r\n\r\n\u0022I don\u0026#039;t wish this upon nobody,\u0022 he said.\r\n\r\nInmates described freezing cold, vermin- and filth-ridden facilities, rampant violence including \u0022fight nights\u0022 staged by gangs, and insufficient protection against Covid-19, which has recently sickened more than 370 prisoners in a jail where less than half of the population is fully vaccinated.\r\n\r\n\u0022There\u0026#039;s no safety for us,\u0022 Richard Colon, 41, told the Times. \u0022There\u0026#039;s no one to help us. It\u0026#039;s scary in here.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAnother inmate, 26-year-old Arian Medina, said that \u0022people are going crazy in here. They\u0026#039;re losing their minds.\u0022\r\n\r\nSpeaking at a Thursday rally organized by the Fortune Society in support of the hunger-striking inmates, New York City Council Member Carmen De La Rosa (D-10) hailed the prisoners\u0026#039; \u0022defiance against a racist, oppressive system that extracts Black and Brown men from our community every single day.\u0022\r\n\r\nDe La Rosa said the Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill communities she represents have \u0022been targeted and surveilled and imprisoned.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022When I tell you Rikers Island is a crisis, it\u0026#039;s because I\u0026#039;ve seen what happens behind prisons walls across this state,\u0022 the former state assembly member said. \u0022None of the prisons across New York state are as bad as Rikers Island.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe vast majority of Rikers\u0026#039; approximately 5,400 inmates are pretrial detainees who have not been found guilty.\r\n\r\nGothamist reports:\r\n\r\n\r\nBy many measures, Rikers conditions have recently deteriorated. Sixteen held in city jails died last year, 15 of them at Rikers. Incidents of self-harm nearly doubled for a period last year, according to the federal monitor appointed to oversee the jail. Rates of violence have also increased, and residents have reported that the intake area where detainees are first processed is infested with vermin, and lacks beds and working toilets. Backlogs in the courts due to the pandemic have resulted in people being locked up for longer, awaiting disposition of criminal charges.\r\n\r\n\r\nThe Omicron-driven Covid-19 surge has also hit correctional workers hard, thinning staff ranks and further endangering inmates. According to the New York City Department of Correction, around 30% of employees were out sick as of Tuesday. This means prisoners are being forced to miss important medical appointments.\r\n\r\n\u0022There\u0026#039;s just not enough officers to walk anyone around,\u0022 Christopher Boyle of the New York County Defender Services told Gothamist.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nInmate Ervin Bowins said that his unit has been denied access to mail, recreation, medical and mental health services, and the law library to work on their cases. Bowins said conditions at Rikers fall short of \u0022mandatory minimum standards for a human being.\u0022\r\n\r\nBoyle told Gothamist that \u0022everything is limited to a degree that’s never been seen before,\u0022 and that inmates have \u0022had enough.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022They\u0026#039;ve finally said this is what we\u0026#039;re going to do to get some attention,\u0022 he said of the hunger strike.\r\n\r\nPrison abolitionists and other human rights activists have voiced solidarity with the hunger strikers, while decrying conditions at Rikers.\r\n\r\n\u0022We are in solidarity with the brave people incarcerated on Rikers Island who had to resort to a hunger strike to protest the deplorable and deadly conditions they are facing, especially as Covid rates skyrocket,\u0022 Jerome Wright, statewide organizer of the #HaltSolitary campaign and member of the Jails Action Coalition, said in a statement.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u0022New York City officials need to act NOW to decarcerate, end solitary confinement, and ensure people have access to medical care and other basic needs,\u0022 he added.\r\n\r\nIncidents including the 2015 suicide of Kalief Browder, a teenager previously jailed at Rikers for three years without trial for allegedly stealing a backpack, spurred former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to propose a plan to close the facility by 2026. Although approved by the City Council over two years ago, the plan has since been delayed indefinitely.