Rikers Island

New York City Doesn’t Care About Young People

NYC city council held a hearing yesterday featuring department of corrections commissioner and fabled “reformer” Joseph Ponte. It was cathartic to see some city council members confronting Ponte over the DOC’s utter failure to protect young prisoners on Rikers Island. In discussing the case of Kaleif Browder (a 16 year old boy who was wrongfully imprisoned and spent nearly 800 days in solitary confinement) city councilman Daniel Dromm (D) told Ponte that officials [Continue reading]

New Report Shows Juvenile, Mentally Ill Abuses Continue Under NYCDOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte

The Bronx Defenders recently put out a report on the use of solitary confinement at Rikers Island amid a growing number of reports of violence, abuse and mismanagement at the facility. The study, titled Voices from the Box (PDF), surveyed 59 inmates between July 2013 and August 2014 and it confirms the horrifying and widespread use of solitary confinement against adolescent and mentally ill inmates. Researchers found that half of Rikers prisoners in solitary were between the ages of 16 [Continue reading]

Damage Control Threatens Change at Rikers Island

On September 29th, the New York Times reported that the New York City Department of Corrections was eliminating solitary confinement for 16 and 17-year-old inmates at Rikers. The department claimed it would be the “first round of changes” and “solitary confinement [would] be replaced by ‘alternative options, intermediate consequences for misbehavior and steps designed to pre-empt incidents from occurring.'” New York City Department of Corrections Commissioner [Continue reading]

Real Reform Won’t Come to Rikers Without the Department of Justice

If there was ever any doubt as to whether the DOJ needed to intervene in the clusterfuck on Rikers Island, this story should lay it to rest. The New York Times reports that officials at Rikers (some of whom have since been promoted) underreported violence against juvenile inmates for months and withheld key information about what happened and who was involved from US Attorney Preet Bahrara. It’s a complex and heartbreaking story that, as the Times writes, “underscores the [Continue reading]

Why Does Corizon Still Have a Contract for Rikers Island?

Two new lawsuits, filed by the relatives of deceased Rikers inmates, point to more atrocious conduct by employees of Corizon Health Services, Inc. Yet, despite their growing rap sheet, few have spoken out to demand the DOC end its contract with the troubled for-profit health care contractor. Rikers has come under increased scrutiny since July, when the New York Times covered the violent conditions facing mentally ill inmates who are routinely brutalized by guards and neglected by [Continue reading]

New York City Pays Enron’s Former Consulting Firm $1.7 Million to Draft Rikers Island Reform Plan

New York City Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte has responded to Mayor de Blasio’s charge to improve conditions at Rikers Island by hiring private consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to draft a reform plan. McKinsey & Co., which is “mostly known for helping Fortune 500 and other large companies” and has reportedly “little if any experience” working with prisons, has signed a 12-month, $1.7 million contract with the city. Despite these circumstances, I [Continue reading]

The Weak Pursuit of Accountability for Rikers Island’s ‘Culture of Brutality’

The New York Times’ reporting work on Rikers Island is starting to make some government officials squirm. But at the end of the day, emerging punishments and accountability measures seem to fall painfully short of addressing the devolving health and safety situation there. The Times first covered the rise in assaults on civilian employees working at the facility back in May, and then followed up in July with a brutal portrayal of life for its prisoners. Now the Occupational Safety and [Continue reading]
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