I am going to only post this, and not ruin the good news with depressing facts about America and prisons overall. That’ll be another post. 🙂
After years of abhorrent conditions and abuses, New York City will shut down the notoriously troubled Rikers Island jail.
“New York City will close the Rikers Island jail facility,” Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday. “It will take many years. It will take many tough decisions along the way. But it will happen.”
The details of what will come to replace Rikers Island are still unclear. As the New York Times reported, a commission previously recommended that the jail be broken up into smaller jails located in each of the city’s five boroughs.
De Blasio was previously skeptical
of shutting it down, but it seems like public pressure to do something about the jail — and perhaps a looming reelection campaign this year — pushed him to change his mind.
Rikers Island is notoriously awful
Rikers Island has earned a national reputation for its terrible conditions, with horror stories regularly coming out.
One such story was that of Kalief Browder, who killed himself in 2015, after his release. He spent three years in the facility even though he was never convicted of the robbery he was wrongly accused of at the age of 16. He claimed he spent more than 400 days in solitary confinement, and he attempted suicide at least six times while at the jail. “I didn’t get to go to prom, graduation, nothing,” Browder told New York City’s ABC 7. “I’m never going to get those years back. Never.”
A New York Times article headlined “Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail” detailed several other examples of abuse at the jail. In one case, officers reacted to an inmate’s suicide attempt by beating him:
” After being arrested on a misdemeanor charge following a family dispute last year, Jose Bautista was unable to post $250 bail and ended up in a jail cell on Rikers Island.
A few days later, he tore his underwear, looped it around his neck and tried to hang himself from the cell’s highest bar. Four correction officers rushed in and cut him down. But instead of notifying medical personnel, they handcuffed Mr. Bautista, forced him to lie face down on the cell floor and began punching him with such force, according to New York City investigators, that he suffered a perforated bowel and needed emergency surgery. “
De Blasio and other city officials had worked to try to fix the jail facility. But the pace of change was slow, and the jail could never shake its reputation as a place of historical brutality. Now Rikers Island is closing down, affecting the roughly 9,000 inmates held there on a daily basis. Click here for the full article.
While I am glad for inmates at Rikers Island as at least some attention was given to them by changing the text in their policies regarding treatment of prisoners by officers, I can’t help but also be angry. First, violence and torture (yes I said torture and I mean it; research it) is tragic and sadly the reality in all prisons; private, federal and state alike. I am just starting on a new project, a larger project regarding the prison industry. However, brutality in prison is a common, racist theme…just as police brutality is. Sickening.
Call me a pessimist,but my faith and trust in the government / prison industry actually enforcingthese “new, change in policies” does not inspire hope in me. Text is easy to type up; it’s easy to teach and it’s just as easy for these guards/officers to pretend to follow. Will they actually follow procedures? These new rules…do they actually matter to them? My outlook is grim and it is a, more likely than not, no.
Even if those at Rikers change for awhile it will only be due to the limited attention of this issue. That is the bigger, overall problem. At Rikers, and all other prisons in America. The majority of prisoners are not in for violence, in fact under 5% are in for murder (overall). Over 55% are in for drugs, non-violent convictions. Even so, these officers should be more humane and
professional towards other living beings.
Normally, I don’t use movies to express my point but the few lines from New Jack City (video below) should make everyone think about the state of racism in America; on money in America and on who the REAL problem is and why we need more
attention on the prison system…and the government period. It may be a movie, but these lines are truth that applies to the real world, the real America. Check the facts if you disagree.
The reason I am going beyond prisoner abuse is because it all trickles down from the top; the money; the government. They do not care what the guards do as long as that money is coming in.
The fact that so many are there for something that is only a crime or as severe of a crime as America’s made it is because of money (which I’ll prove in the project I’m working on). Prisoners are not supposed to be subjected to abuse and death from the ‘authority within’because they are a prisoner and/or have done something illegal (or not). But what are the standards that America’s prison industry holds? Money and filling up cells but in the reverse order. How those people are treated do not matter to them, that is beyond clear. Now let’s ask the question… What should matter?
What SHOULD matter is being an abuser of any form should not be a bonus on a resume, but for prison guards it (and cops) it seems to be a major plus. While I would LOVE to think this is going to spark a change, all I see is false hope. We need a new system, this one is not working. When have they ever fostered change for the better for those who truly need it?
Even in the below article the loop holes for more officers to abuse inmates shines through. Basically they are saying, unless a reason is given and you feel endanger, no more abusing the prisoners! That sounds like an improvement. But just as cops “mistake” wallets, shoes, Pokemon cards (previous case I worked on; Black child of the age 12, murdered by police), and so forth for weapons, I am sure these officers and guards can and will be just as creative as our wonderful law enforcement; thus letting the abuse continue.
I wish I could have written a more positive article; I apologize. But the truth hurts and that’s all I have.
Below is the article, with the original link.
Following the settlement of a federal lawsuit that alleged a culture of violence among correction officers on Rikers Island, the Department of Correction will unveil a new use of force policy to its employees tomorrow, prohibiting certain maneuvers and encouraging officers to avoid force when possible.
“The revised policy provides our dedicated, hardworking officers with additional guidance and tools for when they are confronted with a situation in which force may be necessary, and we expect that it will support appropriate use of force and our objective to resolve situations without physical force whenever possible,” Commissioner Joseph Ponte said in a statement provided to the Observer.
“The goal of the policy, as always, is safety for staff and inmates, and we thank our officers for their support of the comprehensive reforms under way at the Department.”
The policy is the result of the settlement of the lawsuit Nunez v. City of New York, originally filed on behalf of several inmates by the Legal Aid Society and eventually joined by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The settlement called for the department to revise its policies within 60 days of the settlement being approved and laid out many specific requirements that are found in the new policy, which will be circulated to department staff tomorrow. The settlement also required a federal monitor to oversee Rikers, and the monitor, Steve Martin, to sign off on the use of force policy.
The new policy emphasizes the need to respond to situations without physical force whenever necessary. It restricts painfully escorting or restraining inmates without reason, and striking inmates in the groin, neck, kidneys or spinal column. It also prohibits “high-impact” force: blows to the previously mentioned areas as well as the head or face, kicking an inmate, and the use of choke holds, carotid restraint holds or neck restraints.
But there’s an exception to those prohibitions—if the staff member feels he or she, or another person, is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury and lesser means won’t work, the staff can use any means necessary to control the situation.
The new policy also addresses certain aspects of what happens after a use of force—officers involved in a use of force cannot escort the inmate away from the scene nor can they view video footage of the incident before making their first report about it. Inmates will also be able to dictate their statements in addition to writing them. And the new directive emphasizes not provoking inmates through things like profanity or slurs, public humiliation, or instigating inmate-on-inmate violence.
Senior staff has already been briefed on the policy, which will go out department-wide tomorrow and goes into effect November 20. All staff will receive an 8-hour training in the policy within the next year, which meets the requirement set out in Nunez, and staff will get an annual 4-hour refresher course.
The department said the policy was drafted with input from stakeholders, including union officials, but that’s not how Norman Seabrook, the outspoken president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, framed it.
“We take serious issue with the implementation of policies and procedures that involve the members of COBA when we have not been consulted or involved in any of the discussions around these guidelines,” Mr. Seabrook said in a statement.
A source close to the union said COBA was considering its legal options regarding the policy. In a letter, dated November 4, to the judge who approved the Nunez settlement, Mr. Seabrook says the settlement has the “potential” to improve Rikers Island for inmates and officers—but that it is not slated to be implemented in a “rational fashion.” He argued to the judge that training should occur before policies go into effect, which is not what will happen with the use of force policy. He wrote that the settlement requires officers to get clear and adequate direction on when to use force.
“Officers will not receive that direction when unanticipated incidents arise,” Mr. Seabrook wrote. “Training will provide guidance for such circumstances.”
Legal Aid attorneys who negotiated the settlement, also known as a consent decree, said they had not seen the new use of force policy—but had been extensively involved in negotiating the detailed description in the settlement of how the use of force policy should be revised.