The Hart Island Project is an advocacy group calling on the public to visit the island's mass cemetery located in New York. A drone has captured a video recording of inmates seemingly working together to dig and then bury the bodies of the deceased amid the global crisis.
A surprising workforce
Wooden coffins are shown inside the mass graves of the island, which has been utilized as a public cemetery by New York for decades. The recording shows a police bus and several prisoners, while former inmate Vincent Mingalone is heard narrating the events.
Mingalone described his time with the program and the whole ordeal. He also shared he served six months at Rikers Island for disobedience of a court order.
The former convict said they were only asked to assist in burying the bodies every Thursday, and they were limited to 11 to 24 bodies per trip. Hart Island Project board president, Melinda Hunt, said they only handled 23 bodies on that day.
Mr. Mingalone also stated he would personally work on unloading the trucks carrying the coffins while noting the names of the dead, which can be seen on the coffins themselves, and he was also asked to map the plot. After he finished the initial work, he passed the body to three other inmates, who subsequently passed it to another three inmates who were waiting inside the burial location they called 'the pit.'
Each coffin was to be stacked up to three at a time. They would then continue this work for all the coffins in the truck.
After the coffins were inside the graves, sand, and soil would be used to cover them, and the convicts would leave the burial site until the following week's burial.
Feelings of solitude
Mingalone shared he and the other felons took pride in the work that they put in since they knew they were the only ones left to help these people get the proper funeral they deserved. He also said they found it intriguing looking at the people they handled wondering if they passed by them when they were still living.
They stated they did their best in handling them with dignity and respect while asking each other what would have happened for these bodies to end up alone and nobody to care for them.
Reportedly, the convicts were paid $6 an hour for their support in the matter while also being supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid contamination from the ongoing pandemic. The offer was only given to those who were convicted and not the ones who were still waiting for their trials.
Former inmate Mingalone shared his concern regarding the apparent lack of workers, taking into consideration some prisons were releasing prisoners amid the outbreak.
The advocacy group told Storyful the island was a beautiful environment, and the project, along with the bodies, was handled with utmost respect and care. They said they didn't think anyone from New York should be afraid of the burials there. The landscape would be restored and managed by the Parks Department to its former beauty.