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Davidson News

Closure of The Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, Last Floating Prison in NYC Shuts Down

The Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, commonly known as “The Boat,” has closed its doors after nearly three decades of operation. This floating prison barge, introduced by the New York City Department of Corrections in 1992, aimed to alleviate overcrowding on Rikers Island by providing a medium- to maximum-security facility with 800 beds in 16 dormitories and 100 cells. Despite its initial purpose, ‘The Boat’ gained notoriety over the years for its controversial conditions and treatment of inmates.

Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center Closes its Door

In 2014, the facility made headlines by earning the title of the world’s largest prison barge in operation, as recognized by Guinness World Records. However, the closure comes amid mounting criticism and tragic incidents, including the death of Stephan Khadu in 2021. Khadu succumbed to a treatable meningitis infection allegedly contracted within the confines of ‘The Boat.’ His mother, Lezandre Khadu, spoke out about the deplorable conditions, citing issues such as rodent infestation, mold, and stifling heat. Some celebrate the closure as a step towards ending what they describe as an era of inhumane treatment within the facility.

Closure of The Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, Last Floating Prison in NYC Shuts Down
Source: The New York Times

Protests and Controversies Surrounding ‘The Boat’

Throughout its operational years, ‘The Boat’ faced significant public backlash and protests. Critics, including former inmates and activists, referred to it as a “slave ship,” drawing attention to allegations of harsh conditions and mistreatment. Stephan Khadu’s tragic death further fueled public outcry, bringing to light concerns about the overall well-being of inmates within the facility.

Lezandre Khadu’s celebratory reaction to the closure reflects the sentiment shared by those who have long criticized the floating prison barge. The decision to close the facility is expected to contribute to ongoing discussions about prison reform and the treatment of incarcerated individuals.

Disturbing Trends in New York State Prisons: Assaults on Staff on the Rise

While the closure of ‘The Boat’ marks a significant development, a recently released report by New York State sheds light on disturbing trends within its prison system. The report details unusual incidents across Department of Corrections and Community Supervision facilities, encompassing inmate-on-inmate assaults, attempted assaults with body fluids/human waste, hunger strikes, and more. Of particular concern is the alarming rise in assaults on staff.

In 2022, there were a total of 1,472 assaults on staff at New York State prisons, mirroring the similar number (1,489) of assaults on incarcerated individuals during the same period. The report identifies the top 10 prisons with the highest number of staff assaults, with Great Meadow (Maximum Security) ranking the highest at 143 assaults on staff. These statistics underscore the urgent need for increased attention to safety measures within the state’s correctional facilities.

Closure of The Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, Last Floating Prison in NYC Shuts Down
Source: Pix11


As New York takes a step toward reform with the closure of ‘The Boat,’ the broader conversation surrounding the state’s prison system’s challenges and the well-being of both inmates and staff remains a pressing concern.

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