Drone Video of Mass Burial at New York's Hart Island Described as Showing Inmates Working Amid Virus Outbreak

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3 個月前

A drone video from The Hart Island Project, an advocacy group rallying for the public to visit the mass cemetery on New York’s Hart Island, was described as showing inmates burying bodies, en masse, on April 2, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The video shows wooden coffins inside mass graves on the island, which has been used as New York’s public cemetery for decades. Inmates and a police bus can be seen in the video, as former inmate Vincent Mingalone narrated the footage, describing his time on the burial detail. Mingalone can be heard in the video saying he was serving six months at Rikers Island for disobeying a court order before his release on February 18.

In the video, Mingalone said the prison only enlisted the help of inmates to bury bodies on Thursdays, and the Thursday burials ranged from 11 to 24 bodies per trip. Melinda Hunt, the Hart Island Project board president, told reporters 23 bodies were buried on Thursday, April 2.

Mingalone said he would work on the truck unloading coffins and his job was to write the name of the deceased on the outside of the coffin and map the plot. He would then pass the body to three inmates, who would pass it to three inmates “inside the pit”, the burial location. Each coffin would be stacked three high, and they would “continue the process until the truck was empty.”

Once the coffins were placed in the grave, they would pack the coffins with sand and soil, and “we would leave the pit until next week’s burial.”

“I must say, we did take pride in what we did and we knew we were the only ones there for these people and you know, it’s just always intriguing that there’s so many stories, like we didn’t know this person, we didn’t see this person, they’re inside of a box. All we know is a name and date of death, but we always wondered if this person serve me coffee, was this person a janitor in a building, or what did this person do in life that they ultimately wound up here alone? We did the best we could with dignity and we handled the bodies carefully,” he said in the video.

According to reports, prisoners were offered $6 per hour to perform the burials and given personal protective equipment (PPE). The offer was made to those prisoners with convictions, and not to those awaiting trial, the report said. Mingalone can be heard in the video expressing concern about the lack of available workers, considering some New York prisons or jails are releasing prisoners amid the outbreak.

The Hart Island Project posted the footage and had shared similar footage in the past in an effort to encourage the public to visit the island, which in November became accessible parkland.

Hart told Storyful: “Hart Island is a beautiful location and the burials are conducted with respect. I do not think New Yorkers should fear Hart Island burials. The Parks Department will restore the landscape and it will be one of our most beloved parks.”

On Tuesday, April 7, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said 731 people died in the city since Monday, April 6. New York City has been declared an epicenter of the virus. Credit: The Hart Island Project via Storyful

  • H
    Highway Star
    Here's some context missing from the article:
    The remains of more than one million people are buried on Hart Island, though since the first decade of the 21st century, there are fewer than 1,500 burials a year. Burials on Hart Island include individuals who were not claimed by their families or did not have private funerals, as well as the homeless and the indigent. Access to the island is restricted by the Department of Correction, which operates an infrequent ferryboat service and imposes strict visitation quotas. Burials are conducted by Rikers Island inmates. The Hart Island Project, a public charity founded by visual artist Melinda Hunt, has tried to improve access to the island and make burial records more easily available.
  • k
    In Mt Holly NJ on high street near the old courthouse stands what is now known as the prison museum. To one side the left is the courthouse and on the right would have been the wardens house still attached to the prison.

    For years before during and after the gallows had been erected, in one corner near the back wall is countless remains of prisoners who either died in prison serving life sentences as well as those who were hung.

    Mass graves are more common than anyone can imagine
  • Z
    Hype, prisoners from Riker's have always worked on Hart Island burying bodies in mass graves, its nothing new and did not start with this virus.
    "Since 1980, 68,955 people have been buried in mass graves on Hart Island."
  • R
    Okay people. Understand, in excess of 65,000 people die in New York City annually. A lot of those dead folks go unclaimed. The city inters those unclaimed bodies in the potter's fields. Hart Island is one of those potter's fields. The potter's field at Hart Island in inhabited by over a million dead people. It is the largest publicly funded cemetery in the United States, if not the world. People are interred at Hart Island on a daily basis, it has very little to do with COVID-19.
  • J
    So the bodies don't go to families to bury? Or are these people who had no family or no money?
  • i
    My wife is still working everyday, and so are millions of others at grocery stores, hardware stores, banks, fast food places, police, firefighters, hospitals workers.. IT people are working from home, insurance people.. Lots of people that did not break the law are working, why is this a story??
  • D
    There are a lot of people who die everyday, and nobody claims their body. This isn't a new problem, states have been dealing with this in higher and higher numbers recently, due in large part to the opioid epidemic that has been ravaging the country for the last two decades. Driven, in large part, by synthetic fentanyl, which is coming from China, primarily, and smuggled in through our southern border. More than 250,000 people have died of opioid overdoses since 2004. So, let's start talking about our "friend", China.......
  • r
    Well this isnt about victims of the virus. This is just Thursday morning burials on the island.
    Not what you think the lead in is at all.
  • D
    I'm very glad to see in the comments the high amount of aware people who's job isn't to report the news and obtain facts, know that Heart Island is a potters cemetery and this is nothing new. Thank God the average Person has more knowledge than the average media reporter. Well done folks and shame on propaganda.
  • D
    David O
    I'm just not seeing why I should be outraged or the tragedy in this. Tens of thousands are buried yearly on the Island with inmate labor!