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IMF head held in virtual isolation on Rikers Island

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 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.

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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.

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