On July 17, 2014, Ramsey Orta filmed a police officer in New York killing his friend, Eric Garner. Since that moment, Orta has himself had a turbulent experience with law enforcement, and the judicial system at large. He has been sentenced to prison for alleged possession of a weapon and drug charges. After a long battle with the law, and being consistently threatened by law enforcement officers, Orta plead guilty this past July, stating that he was “tired of fighting”.
That said, officials have endangered his safety many of times; one particular instance included his food (during his temporary stay at Rikers Correctional Facility) being infused with rat poison. After this instance, Orta was released on bail, before making his inevitable return (due to a plea bargain) to Rikers for a 4-year sentence just this past Monday, October 3rd, 2016.
After speaking on a panel at Bard College just days before his departure back to the facility, Orta had a positive outlook on life following his incarceration, and even in regard to his time spent inside the penitentiary. He expressed great interest in studying law following his time served. However, just a day into his sentence, Orta has, yet again, been stared in the face by more corruption.
According to Orta’s wife, Bella, who spoke to him on the phone Tuesday afternoon, Orta has not eaten since his entry to the prison. Rikers, deemed one of the worst prisons in the country, is notorious for their inmate violence, staff brutality, rape, abuse of adolescents and the mentally ill, having one of the nation’s highest rates of solitary confinement. It has historically been the target of dozens of lawsuits and various exposes. Yet, it continues to actively neglect and abuse its inmates. Bella believes that Orta’s sentencing—and sentencing to this facility in particular—was in itself a form of judicial retaliation to his exploitation of the abuse of law enforcement. Knowing the history of the facility, and concerned for Orta’s safety, she posted the following status from his Facebook account:
Bella posited that because of the former rat-poison incident, Orta refuses to eat prison-produced food. Instead, he has raised funds to go toward his commissary. Apparently, the guards are refusing to accompany him there, meaning he currently has no source of food. Additionally, Orta told his wife that $400 of the money he took there with him had disappeared. He also said $40 of the $100 she had sent him wasn’t there, even though there had been a charge on her credit card statement for $100.
“Processing” means the amount stays there until it is received by the inmate, but Ramsey relayed to Bella that a guard informed him that he only had $60.
To make matters worse for the Orta family, at about 6:30pm on Tuesday evening, two correction officers at Rikers Island were slashed in the face by an inmate. Since that time, Bella has not been able to get in touch with Orta. She expresses that she is “terrified”, especially when considering what their children’s lives would be without a father. Bella says that she and her three-year-old, Ichiro (Orta’s stepson), watch “Marco Polo” videos of Orta telling them that he loves them, because he isn’t aware of what has happened to his father. Orta also has two daughters, Alivia and Mariah, who are anxiously awaiting his return home.
For more updates on Orta, or to donate to his commissary, go to http://www.ramseyorta.info/.