Rights of young Rikers inmates violated, report says - KMSP-TV

Rights of young Rikers inmates violated, report says

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Rikers Island (file photo) Rikers Island (file photo)
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) - An investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office found that Rikers Island staff routinely violated the rights of its adolescent male inmates.

The multi-year investigation found that inmates are inadequately protected from physical harm. The investigation concluded that the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC) used unnecessary and excessive force. Also, violence from other inmates caused an unsafe and unprotected environment.

“As our investigation has shown, for adolescents, Rikers Island is a broken institution,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. “It is a place where brute force is the first impulse rather than the last resort.” 

Many of the inmates are pre-trial detainees who are innocent until proven guilty by the judicial system. 

“They are entitled to be detained safely and in accordance with their constitutional rights," said Bharara.

In 2012, there were 517 reports of violence by staff, resulting in 1,059 injuries. In 2012, the number increased to 565 with the injuries staying almost constant with 1,057, according to the investigation's findings.

Inmate-on-inmate fights were reported 845 times in 2013, an increase from 795 reported fights in 2012.

The report added correction officers resort to “headshots,” which are blows to the head of an inmate and attempt to justify use of force by yelling “stop resisting” when the inmate has been subdued or never resisted to begin with.

“The extremely high rates of violence and excessive use of solitary confinement for adolescent males uncovered by the investigation are inappropriate and unacceptable,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “We will work with the City of New York to make good on our commitment to reform practices that are unfair and unjust, and to ensure that incarceration is used to deter, punish and ultimately rehabilitate.”

The report suggested measures to address the violations such as housing adolescent inmates in a jail not on Rikers Island, increasing the number of cameras in adolescent areas, revising use of force policies, instituting a zero-tolerance policy for failing to report uses of force and developing training programs.

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