DOJ slams Riker's Island for horrific violence against young inmates

From the age of 16 on, children are integrated into the general population at Riker's Island, where the guards routinely engage in brutal, illegal beatings whose video evidence mysteriously disappears.

The DOJ's investigation is unequivocal in its condemnation, documenting events like guards beating mentally ill inmates until they were hospitalized, then continuing to beat them in the face and head after they were restrained on a medical gurney.

Based on a review of Department 24-hour reports from October 2012 through early April 2014, we identified 64 incidents involving blows to an adolescent inmate’s head or face. This is undoubtedly an underestimate of the number of headshots during this period, because 24hour reports contain only initial incident summaries prepared by staff themselves. Indeed, our review of incidents and witness interviews suggest that headshots were utilized far more frequently during this period. However, the fact that these summaries so often openly refer to headshots is disturbing.

Our consultant reported that headshots are far more common at Rikers than at any other correctional institution he has observed. In many instances, correction officers readily admit hitting inmates but claim they acted in self-defense after being punched first by the inmate. As a threshold matter, even when an inmate strikes an officer, an immediate retaliatory strike to the head or face is inappropriate. Moreover, there is often reason to question the credibility of the officer’s account. These incidents also disproportionately occur in locations without video surveillance, making it difficult to determine what transpired.

CRIPA Investigation of the New York City Department of Correction Jails on Rikers Island

DOJ Report Details The Massive Amount Of Violence Committed By Rikers Island Staff Against Adolescent Inmates [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]

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  1. bzishi says:

    The New York Times has recently done some good reporting on Rikers:

    Among the things it covered included things like the systematic abuse of mentally ill inmates (including the one who baked to death and the one who, after he swallowed a bleach tablet, died after being refused medical treatment on the order of a captain), the torture of critically ill inmates by having a van drive them around the city for hours before taking them to a hospital or not (which they refer to as “bus therapy”), the beating of prisoners on gurneys and who are handcuffed (especially with head beatings) just outside of camera range, the union president screaming and yelling at a health commissioner doing a tour and threatening to leave her alone with inmates, the refusal of the city attorneys to ever prosecute guards for misconduct, etc.

    It is clear that the entire system of violence against inmates is deeply ingrained. It would be horrifying to be jailed there. And let me point this out: this is a jail, not a prison. The people being held there have either not been to trial and convicted or have only been convicted of misdemeanors.

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