Return to Rikers

In 1990, Patrick Burke* killed a man in a fight. He spent two years as a fugitive, sold drugs, and killed another man in a drug dispute. He was arrested in 1993 and spent a year and a half on Rikers Island, New York City’s sprawling detention center—the first stop in two decades of incarceration. He was released in 2013.

In June of 2015, Patrick returned to Rikers Island for the first time in 20 years—to visit his son. This is his story, as told to W.M. Akers and illustrated by Josh Kramer.

*At the subject’s request, his name was changed.


W.M. Akers, a features editor at Narratively, is a Tennessee playwright who lives in New York City. He writes about theater at

Josh Kramer is a cartoonist and journalist who self-publishes The Cartoon Picayune, an anthology of comics journalism. His work can be found at