Register Thursday | September 24 | 2020

The Rikers Island Guide to the Economy

What the world’s largest penal colony can teach us about easy money, low rollers, and the current financial crisis.

Rhason Burke had a strategy to beat this recession—petty theft. At his peak, the Brooklyn resident earned $500 a week stealing and selling shampoos, facial creams, deodorants and other household products. He began eight months ago, after work at his catering job slowed down, approaching “boosting” like a part-time job.

“I could have gone out and got a part-time job at McDonald’s,” the college-educated Burke said. “I chose fast money. I did it six days a week, everyday except Sunday.” Burke, who thinks the Wall Street bailout was a “necessary evil,” predicts the recession will last at least four years.

His side gig will not. His flirtation with criminal enterprise, he said, ended when police arrested him. He spent a week at Rikers before being released, taking the Q100 back to Queens and a legitimate, if not as lucrative, lifestyle.

The Q100 bus runs a three-mile route between ...

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