Skip to main content

IMF head held in virtual isolation on Rikers Island

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn is in protective custody in Rikers Island
  • The site actually has 10 different units
  • Strauss-Kahn is in an 11-by-13-foot cell
  • He must use his commissary account to buy phone calls and snacks

New York (CNN) -- One hour of recreation a day. Veal patties and noodles for dinner. New York's well-known Rikers Island jail complex has been featured in films, television shows and documentaries, but life on the other side of the bars appears less than glamorous.

A number of well-known or infamous inmates have been at least briefly incarcerated there, from the late Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious to, more recently, former NFL receiver Plaxico Burress and rapper Lil' Wayne. However, many celebrities find the facilities in the Rikers Island complex a far cry from the surroundings they may be used to.

International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is the latest well-known inmate at Rikers Island. He was transferred there on Monday after a Manhattan Criminal Court judge refused to grant him bail. Strauss-Kahn faces multiple charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault of a housekeeping employee at New York's Sofitel hotel.

Rikers Island, actually a complex of 10 different units located in the New York borough of Queens, dates to the 1930s, when the first facility -- the James A. Thomas Center, formerly known as the Rikers Island Penitentiary -- opened, according to the New York Department of Correction.

Once a 90-acre site, Rikers Island was enlarged to more than 400 acres using sanitary landfill, according to the department's website. It is an actual island, accessible only by a bridge from Queens, and its jails have a combined capacity of nearly 17,000 inmates.

A peak inside Rikers Island jail
Inside the case against Strauss-Kahn
French anger over IMF chief in handcuffs

However, Strauss-Kahn is in protective custody, meaning he is kept away from the general population because of his status as a high-profile inmate, said a department spokesman who asked not to be named. He is in Rikers Island's West Facility, part of which is used to house inmates with contagious diseases, but other parts are used for inmates in protective custody, the spokesman said.

Strauss-Kahn is awakened at 6 a.m. each day in his 11-by-13-foot cell, the spokesman said. He will not have interaction or contact with other inmates, and "his cell is the only one occupied on that side of the unit."

When he is taken out of his cell for his daily hour of recreation or taken to the visiting area to receive visitors, he will be accompanied by a corrections officer and a captain, the spokesman said. Inmates travel outside their cells one at a time, meaning he will have no opportunity to encounter other inmates.

The spokesman said Monday that Strauss-Kahn will be allowed to leave his cell periodically and walk around his housing area corridor, where he can watch television -- but he still won't come into contact with anyone else.

Tuesday's menu for inmates included an apple, banana, cereal, toast, milk and coffee or tea for breakfast; vegetable chili, rice, green beans, carrot and celery salad and wheat bread for lunch; and veal patties, noodles, steamed cabbage, whole wheat bread, a piece of fruit and tea or a fruit drink for dinner.

Inmates and others can deposit money into their commissary accounts, which can be used to purchase toiletries, snacks and haircuts, as well as buy daily phone calls, all of which are monitored and recorded, according to the department.

Strauss-Kahn will be allowed three visits a week, not counting his attorney or outside doctor, if he has one, the spokesman said.

CNN's Jesse Solomon contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Family of Strauss-Kahn accuser speaks
The family of the alleged victim in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case speaks out.
Reaction to news case may be dropped
Here's a preview of what we'll be inclined to to hear, or not, after the latest twist in the extremely high-profile affair.
Strauss-Kahn case in trouble?
Susan Candiotti reports on credibility issues in the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Spotlight on France's hidden sexism
Fresh political sex scandals have France gripped by a debate on the nation's hidden culture of sexism.
Strauss-Kahn claimed to have diplomatic immunity
A new prosecution document reveals that the former chief of the IMF at first claimed to have diplomatic immunity when he was taken into custody.
Ex-IMF boss pleads not guilty
Dominique Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty to seven charges in the May 14 incident.
Strauss-Kahn steps down from IMF
The head of the IMF has resigned amid mounting calls he step down after being jailed on charges he sexually assaulted a maid in his hotel suite.
IMF sex case 'shows real progress'
Financial journalist says the case against Strauss-Kahn is an anomaly because the accuser suffered no ill consequences by her employer.