What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Updated: Inmates and C.O.'s at Rikers Island Won't Be Evacuated Ahead of Irene

August 27, 2011, 2:41 PM

Jean Casella and James Ridgeway report in Mother Jones that New York City has no plans to evacuate an estimated 12,000 inmates and their correctional officers on low-lying Rikers Island ahead of Hurricane Irene:

"We are not evacuating Rikers Island," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference Friday. Bloomberg annouced a host of extreme measures being taken by New York City in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, including a shutdown of the public transit system and the unprecedented mandatory evacuation of some 250,000 people from low-lying areas. But in response to a reporter's question, the mayor stated in no uncertain terms (and with a hint of annoyance) that one group of New Yorkers on vulnerable ground will be staying put.

New York City is surrounded by small islands and barrier beaches, and a glance at the city's evacuation map reveals all of them to be in Zone A (already under a mandatory evacuation order) or Zone B–all, that is, save one. Rikers Island, which lies in the waters between Queens and the Bronx, is not highlighted at all, meaning it is not to be evacuated under any circumstances.

What ever happened to the concept of custody? These prisoners are under the control of New York City, their safety is the city's responsibility.

Mayor Bloomberg owes us an explanation. Why has the city preemptively ruled out evacuation for Rikers when geographically and topographically similar islands are being evacuated?

Now, I can see why the city might want to adopt a wait-and-see approach to evacuating Rikers. Maybe the storm won't be that bad after all, and relocating 12,000 prisoners would be lot more complicated and expensive than simply telling the residents of Battery Park City to find somewhere else to stay. But the city has a moral and legal obligation to act if the inmates at Rikers are in danger.

So, Mayor Bloomberg, what is the plan for getting the inmates and COs off the island if worse comes to worst? There'd better be one.

Update, 7:10pm: I got this tweet from the feed of New York Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson (@howiewolf):

Rikers facility is not in evac Zone A (based on topography), staff remaining there + not all islands in NYC are being evacuated

I tweeted back to ask what zone Rikers is in, topographically. I haven't gotten a response yet. (A friend of mine who used to work at Rikers estimates that it's Zone B.)

According to a press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Department of Corrections has confirmed that there isn't even a hypothetical plan to evacuate the inmates.  

I asked CCR spokesperson Jen Nessel what she thought of Wolfson's statements. She wrote in an email:

The maps I’ve seen all leave Rikers off the Zone scale, but even if it isn’t in Zone A where the mandatory evacuations are taking place, the fact that the Department of Corrections admitted there wasn’t even a hypothetical plan for 12,000 people who can’t exactly evacuate themselves if the situation worsens is disturbing.

[Photo credit: Satanslaundromat, Creative Commons.]


Updated: Inmates and C.O.'s...

Newsletter: Share: