(NEW YORK) — At 50, Greg Ferguson is one of the old-timers at Rikers Island, residing at the New York City jail since 2011.
Felony cases in the Bronx can take years before they go to trial. In May 2011, Ferguson was arrested for attempted murder, and after four years at Rikers, he was convicted last April. He has spent the past year awaiting sentencing.
Ferguson was representing himself until recently. He said he still has a motion pending on his case and that since his incarceration, he’s encountered nine different judges and 23 different assistant district attorneys on his case.
“Every time I go to court, I get a court date for three months, four months down the road and then come back and nothing happens,” he told ABC News. “I just want my day in court. That’s it.”
Rikers is a place where the wheels of justice can seem stuck in place and time can stand still.
“I’ve been in this building from the good, the bad, the ugly,” he said.
But even over the span of five years, Ferguson says he has seen significant changes here with the jail itself. It is hard to believe that it’s the same jail, he said.
Last September, some of the inmates moved into newly renovated units. There are now 12 restarted housing units with approximately 400 inmates in the George R. Vierno Center (GRVC). Ferguson noticed a positive change immediately.
“[Since] we’ve been here since last year,” he said. “No fights, no cuttings, no slashings, no stabbings.”
There is a fresh coat of paint, doors with the inmates’ names on them, washer, dryers and a surprisingly effective innovation — inmates can now watch television through headsets, which brings the noise level down, along with the ever-present conflict of not being able to hear.
They have programs too: certificate courses, job training, and lessons on computer skills. A higher staff-to-inmate ratio also exists – two staffers per 36 inmates. In the old units, there was an average of one staff member per 35 inmates.
In his cell, vestiges of Ferguson’s life on the outside are on display. It’s his statement of pride, self-worth, and humanity.
“These are my books,” he says. “I do a lot of studying, I’m learning Italian. This is my mental intuition book. This is my Anthony Bourdain book. I love cooking. I’m like a chef.”
Ferguson welcomes the solitude. “I stay to myself basically,” he says. “Nobody else does yoga, nobody else meditates, nobody listens to classical music. To them, they think it’s weird. To me, it just keeps my sanity.”
And peppered among the cookbooks and the rented sound equipment, there are folders filled with trial transcripts, and law books piled on the floor. “These, I just recently received them. These are my trial transcripts,” he said. “The wheels of justice turn very slow in the Bronx, so my motion still hasn’t been decided and the longer that I’m here, it’s like more issues, you know, come about.”
Ferguson’s next court date is on June 25. The Bronx District Attorney’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
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