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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed on Monday that an inmate at the Rikers Island Prison Complex was once forced to drink from the toilet, echoing the unfounded claim she previously made about immigrant detention facilities.
“Mass incarceration is our American reality. It is a system whose logic evolved from the same lineage as Jim Crow, American apartheid, [and] slavery,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “To end it, we have to change. That means we need to have a real conversation about decarceration [and] prison abolition in this country.”
“Yesterday morning I spoke with a woman who was thrown in Rikers as a teenager. Put in solitary confinement for MONTHS, aka torture. Force-fed pills,” she continued. “The conditions were so bad, she too had drank out of toilets. A cage is a cage is a cage. And humans don’t belong in them.”
The remark hearkens back to a similar claim that the self-proclaimed “radical” congresswoman made over the summer after visiting a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility near Texas’ southern border. At the time, she contended that migrant detainees told her they were instructed by CBP agents to drink water out of toilets.
“When these women tell me that they were put into a cell and that their sink was not working — and we tested the sink ourselves and the sink was not working — and they were told to drink out of a toilet bowl, I believe them,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a House oversight committee hearing. “I believed these women. I believed the canker sores that I saw in their mouths because they were only allowed to be fed unnutritious food.”
The agency swiftly refuted the allegations and inconsistencies in her story soon began to emerge, reported The Daily Caller’s Jason Hopkins. It was later clarified that the toilets in question were a hybrid-style where drinking water is dispensed from a fountain attached to the toilet as part of a single unit. The drinking fountain was clearly marked “potable water.”
A CBP officer who was reportedly at the facility during Ocasio-Cortez’s tour criticized the freshman lawmaker for purposely mischaracterizing the situation.
“So, this is what happened with the migrant and drinking water from the toilet: She wanted water, didn’t know how to use the faucet in the cell, and drank from the toilet. She never told [Ocasio-Cortez] that we made her drink from the toilet. [Ocasio-Cortez], of course, changed it,” a CBP agent told The Washington Examiner in July on the condition of anonymity.
While there has been no evidence to corroborate Ocasio-Cortez’s claim, she has since doubled down on the allegation.
The New York congresswoman announced her opposition only days earlier to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close Rikers Island and replace the notorious prison with four borough-based jails. Ocasio-Cortez, who recently met with the organization No New Jails NYC, argues that the plan does not include a legal guarantee that the Rikers Island facility will ever actually close.
“We shouldn’t be building new jails,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram story. “This plan is presented as what’s necessary to #CloseRikers, but the plan itself doesn’t even include the closure of Rikers.”
Her office has not commented further on the issue.