Our firm is investigating claims involving violence against juveniles who are serving time in New York City juvenile jails. People may have suffered serious injuries and problems have been reported in the New York City juvenile jails.
Justice Department Investigation
Following a Justice Department probe into New York City juvenile jail facilities, the facilities have been found to be very violent and unsafe, according to The Associated Press (AP). The report indicates that the violence and the lack of safety have been caused by a pervasive culture of violence involving guards regularly violating teenage inmates’ constitutional rights. The federal government report indicated that guards were found to exert “rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force.”
The report followed a Justice Department Investigation that was conducted over a two and a-half year period that looked into violence at three Rikers Island juvenile jail facilities that house 16-to-18-year-olds and which are part of the United States’ second largest jail system, wrote the AP. The report recommended significant reforms to nearly every treatment area involving juvenile offenders and revealed problems from 2011 to 2013 that are believed to also be occurring in the adult inmate population. Issues include problems with inadequate staff training and investigations; an ineffective management structure; and overuse of solitary confinement, especially in the mentally ill inmate population.
The report, which was addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio and two other senior city officials, revealed that officer punishment was rare, even in the face of compelling evidence that an appalling violation had occurred, according to The New York Times. If investigations did occur, they were generally described as “superficial” and the incident reports were, often, “incomplete, misleading or intentionally falsified.”
The civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office conducted the federal investigations. The report detailed over 10 pages of corrective measures and issued a warning that if New York City did not appropriately create new policies and procedures, the Justice Department could bring a federal lawsuit seeking a judicial order to impose remedies. Bharara told The New York Times that the City had 49 days to respond.
Report: Violence Rampant in Juvenile Jail
The federal investigation discussed the department’s use of what was described as “prolonged punitive segregation” for juvenile inmates as “excessive and inappropriate.” Federal authorities indicated that “adolescent inmates, many of whom have mental illnesses, are routinely placed in what amounts to solitary confinement for weeks and, sometimes, months at a time.” In fact, on a typical day in 2013, as many as 25 percent of the youth population was in segregation, “often for infractions involving nonviolent conduct.”
At a news conference, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said of NYC juvenile jail system that, “It is a place where brute force is the first impulse rather than the last resort; where verbal insults are repaid with physical injuries; where beatings are routine while accountability is rare; and where a culture of violence endures even while a code of silence prevails.”
According to the federal probe, staffers used force 565 times in 2013 against the 682-inmate youth population at Rikers Island, wrote USA Today. The alleged force led to 1,057 injuries. The so-called “use-of-force” cases increased from 2012’s 517 instances. “The extremely high rates of violence and excessive use of solitary confinement for adolescent males uncovered by this investigation are inappropriate and unacceptable,” Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder said. Meanwhile, Bharara described Rikers Island youth confinement as a “broken institution” and added that, “These young men automatically charged as adults despite their age under New York law, may be on an island and out of sight but they can no longer remain out of mind.”
New York is one of two states that charges individuals 16 to 18 years of age as adults. At Rikers, this group accounts for approximately 500 inmates and about two-thirds of this group has been charged with a felony. In fiscal year 2013, some 51 percent of these inmates received a mental illness diagnosis. In contrast, 38 percent of inmates in the overall population received a mental illness diagnosis.
The federal prosecutors’ consultant said that, after reviewing hundreds of correctional systems, he had not ever seen such a high incidence of head punches, elevated use-of-force rate, and pervasive inmate-on-inmate violence, the AP noted.
The New York Times indicated that the Rikers report covered many issues it recently brought up in its investigation into guard violence at Rikers. Much of that violence was against inmates diagnosed with mental illness; the article discussed 129 cases in which inmates of all ages were seriously hurt in 2013 in exchanges with correction officers.
Juvenile Jail Reform Called For
Ten areas of reform were outlined as part of the Justice Department’s civil investigation that it indicated were “necessary to address the constitutional violations identified.” Reform areas include installing additional camera surveillance, disciplining officers when excessive and unnecessary force are used, and providing for young, at-risk inmate housing transfers that are not solitary confinement.
The AP noted that 70 reforms were indicated in the Rikers report.
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