NYC Reviews Rikers Island Assaults on 129 Inmates

New York City’s Department of Investigation has begun a review of scores of cases involving the assaults on Rikers Island inmates by correction officers. The department is looking in 129 cases over an 11-month period in 2013. All 129 inmates suffered serious injuries from the assaults.

The injuries were the focus of a special report, completed this year by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, highlighting a culture of violence that victimizes inmates with mental illnesses.

Already eight correction officers and a captain have been arrested and charged with assault on inmates, contraband smuggling and falsifying documents to cover up malfeasance.

According to Mark G. Peters, the department’s commissioner, the issues at Rikers appeared to go beyond more brutality, and highlighted in particular efforts to cover up incidents.

According to the New York Times article, “a video of the episode viewed by The Times, the officers can be seen scuffling with the inmate at the cell’s threshold, then pushing their way inside. They spent about three minutes there, during which, according to the Investigation Department, they threw the inmate to the floor and repeatedly kicked and punched him in the head and torso. A minute later, according to the video, a captain entered the cell and was heard by a nearby inmate discussing how to handle the situation, the department said.

Correction Department rules permit officers to enter an inmate’s cell only when there is an immediate threat, such as a suicide attempt.”

The captain was then seen on the way to a jail clinic where she fashions a noose out of the inmate’s pants, twisting the legs and tying them together in a loop. She then places the constructed noose on the floor and uses a digital camera to take pictures that were then uploaded to the Correction Department’s incident reporting system.

The case is troubling “because there was a supervisor whose job it was to make sure that we follow the rules who manufactured evidence to help the people she supervises to break the rules,” Mr. Peters said. “That’s an attack not on an individual inmate, but upon the justice system and civil order.”

“In its four-month investigation, The Times found that inmates had suffered fractured jaws and eye sockets, wounds requiring stitches and severe head and back injuries during altercations with correction officers. Some were beaten by multiple guards, while handcuffed, and after suicide attempts, sometimes in full view of witnesses, including other inmates and medical personnel.”

 

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