In the Marvel Universe it is named Ryker's Island after Abraham Rycken (whose name evolved to Riker over time), a Dutch settler of the 1630s. It is based on Rikers Island from the real world. It made its first appearance as Island Prison in Amazing Spider-Man #4.
Ryker's Island has security cells, each one designed specially for each super-prisoner. Many of Spider-Man's, Avenger's and Fantastic Four's foes are locked in this special state prison. It housed the majority of the super criminals until other facilities such as The Vault and The Raft (at Ryker's Island) were created.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865), the island was used as military training ground for units originating in New York. Both European American and African American regiments were trained there.
The Riker family produced a military leader of their own in the person of John Lafayette Riker (1822-1862), leader of the 62nd New York Volunteer Regiment. He was killed at the Battle of Fair Oaks.
In 1884 the Riker family sold it to New York City. The island was converted to a jail farm. In 1932, the City built a prison for men on it. The original penitentiary building was completed in 1935, remaining in use until the year 2000. Since the island was only 90 acres in size, by the 1950s the facilities were overflown with prisoners.
By 1954, landfill had been added to the island, artificially expanding it to 415 acres in size. Jail facilities were expanded accordingly. The island now held prisoners of both sexes. By the early 1990s, the island had been overflown with prisoners again. This time the authorities added a barge, which was able to accommodate 800 prisoners.
Ryker's Island has a long history of corrections officials abusing their authority. Illegal strip-searches of nonviolent inmates, beatings, indifference or encouragement of violence among inmates have all been reported over the years. Repeated indictments or convictions of the prison personnel have failed to resolve the problem.
Ryker's Island was called Rooker's Island, a regular prison which wasn't exclusively for super-villains. Both Richard Fisk and Tombstone were sent there for their respectable crimes. The two teamed up and Richard used his connections to frame Robbie Robertson for Tombstone and had him sent to Rooker's instead. When they tried to escape Spider-Man saved Robbie and the other two were sent back to prison.