Prison Protest Is Now Part Of Shadowproof

If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been posting any updates here in the last month or so, it is because this column has formally moved to, where I have been writing daily about prisons, jails and incarceration.

Read more about Shadowproof here:

Introducing Shadowproof
More about Shadowproof

In the coming weeks/months, I hope to migrate this site completely and redirect the domain to its new home. Thanks so much for reading and I hope you will join me over at Shadowproof.

New York City Council Proposes Taxpayers Bail Some Inmates Out of Jails

Correction: An earlier version of this post placed the responsibility for changing bail laws at the feet of the New York City Council. In fact, bail laws are set by the State of New York, and would have to be changed by state legislators. I sincerely regret this error and have amended the post accordingly.

At the same time, I would like to reaffirm my central point that a bail fund (while well intentioned) is not bail reform. It may provide some relief to a subset of prisoners, but the proposal does not actually change the situation facing the vast majority of prisoners in the city’s jails. Kalief Browder, the young black prisoner who recently committed suicide after spending 3 years in pretrial confinement on Rikers unable to pay a $3,000, would likely not have been helped by this plan. Bail will likely continue to be a major factor in the prolonged pretrial detention of New Yorkers until the state abolishes the system entirely.

The NYC Council unveiled a proposal this week to create a $1.4 million fund to pay bail for inmates who cannot afford to do so on their own. An estimated 85% of Rikers Island inmates are being held as pre-trial detainees; their inability to afford bail is the reason why some inmates get caught up on the island for years without ever being convicted of a crime.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx), who has been a vocal proponent of reforming the city’s criminal justice system, told reporters the fund would “cover bails set at $2,000 or less for low-level misdemeanors [and] will come from City Council coffers. It is meant to help reduce the detainee population on Rikers Island.” Mayor Bill De Blasio, who was alongside Mark-Viverito at the announcement, said, “There will be a screening process to ensure a defendant does not have a history of violent offenses.”

While this might seem like a good idea, it does not actually challenge the money bail system that fills Rikers and other city jails with predominantly poor, black people. The council, which must rely on state lawmakers to actually reform or abolish the bail system, will in a sense institutionalize the charitable work of nonprofits on the outside. This is truly a sad state of affairs that highlights the complexity and depth of the city’s criminal justice crisis.

The city is also creating an opening for inmates with “violent records” to be unfairly barred from the bail fund. First of all, if you are arrested and perceived to be at risk of flight or harm to others, you are typically held without bail. New York State prohibits judges from considering these dangers when imposing bail, but it can be hard to avoid. This could potentially be a problem because of the different way sin which people can acquire “violent records.” Victims of domestic violence sometimes find themselves with violent records after defending themselves from their abusers. Mentally ill inmates — of which there are many on Rikers Island — can sometimes have violent records as well stemming from a lack or mismanagement of their healthcare. It does a lot more to save face for politicians wanting to avoid being perceived as too-soft on crime than it does promote the public safety.

Like so many other Rikers Island reforms, the bail fund is does little more than accommodate the shameful status quo.

New York City Enters Settlement With Feds Over Rikers Island Brutality

New York City and the Department of Justice settled a 2012 class action lawsuit this week brought by the Legal Aid Society (Nunez v City of New York), alleging rampant inmate abuse on Rikers Island. The Nunez lawsuit is just one of many to have detailed the horrific conditions facing inmates in NYC jails and underscores the pervasive brutality and impunity with which the city’s corrections officers have traditionally operated.

In December of last year, Mayor Bill De Blasio’s Rikers Island task force introduced a collection of proposals he argued would make the city a progressive leader in criminal justice reform. Those proposals included ending solitary confinement for inmates under 21 (contingent on funding and programming by 2016), curbing punitive segregation for inmates with a history of mental illness, implementing thousands of surveillance cameras, rekindling the Department of Correction’s (DOC) long-dormant recruitment program and beefing up oversight and investigative measures aimed at policing the behavior of guards. At the beginning of this year, the city also implemented a multi-million dollar super-solitary unit known as the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit (ESHU) and announced plans to restrict inmate visitation, which were met with vehement protest from the community.

The majority of the terms of the settlement mirror proposals from the De Blasio task force. And while some of these reforms would qualify as improvements of the status quo, I believe the package will ultimately fall far short of the city’s goal of ending the abusive environment on Rikers and achieving one of those most progressive criminal justice systems in the country. The reforms are largely empty gestures towards law enforcement accountability we see taking place elsewhere in the country, or represent policies and procedures that should shock each and every one of us for not having existed before; their implementation  should not impress us now. Really, this situation should lead us to question whether the department can be trusted to play a constructive role in the city’s justice apparatus.

The following analysis is based on the summary of the agreement made available on the Department of Justice website.

Monitor: Steve J. Martin

The agreement calls for the establishment of an independent Monitor to oversee the implementation of the terms of the settlement. According to the NY Law Journal, Steve J. Martin is a former corrections officer and “prison reform expert” out of Oklahoma who has been involved in lawsuits out of NYC jails for over two decades.

It is worth noting that Martin’s selection as Monitor was praised by the president of the powerful Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association Norman Seabrook, who believes “Martin will treat his roughly 9,200 members even-handedly—and conclude that the vast majority of guards are not responsible for excessive violence that has been the target of critics.”

Wishful thinking or not, Seabrook is not the only person quoted in the article who believes Martin will be “balanced” in his oversight of guard-on-inmate brutality.

Use of Force & Officer Oversight

The Department of Corrections will be required to create a new Use of Force policy that will “set forth explicit prohibitions regarding the use of certain categories of force, and provide correction officers with clear direction on when and how force may be used.”

Officers will be required to report use of force incidents, and DOC investigations into those reports will be “thorough, timely and objective.” DOC will “take all necessary steps to impose appropriate and meaningful discipline, up to and including termination,” for officers found to be in violation of the policy.

An “early warning system” will be devised to identify and discipline officers “whose conduct may warrant corrective actions,” as well as analyze data to help pinpoint “staff members who are at risk of engaging in serious misconduct absent appropriate intervention or services by DOC.” It is unclear what this system will look like or how it will work.

However welcome these changes may be, they are far from new or innovative. NYC jails have always had Use of Force policies and reporting requirements. The problem is they’ve rarely been enforced. It is unclear how the mere existence of these policies will force the cultural shift necessary for accountability to take place in the DOC — especially when there are still leaders within the department who were promoted after allegedly suppressing numbers on violent incidents involving inmates.


The Department of Corrections will also be required to beef up the presence of video recording technology throughout the facility. DOC will be expected to install at least 7,800 additional cameras on a rolling basis — at least 25% of which must be installed by July 1, 2016. At minimum, 75% of these thousands of cameras must be installed one year from now, and DOC will prioritize placement in facilities with “the most significant levels of violence.” It will preserve video footage of use of force incidents and inmate-on-inmate violence for four years.

Jumping on the growing bandwagon taking place in police departments around the country including the NYPD, DOC will be testing body cameras for use “by certain corrections officers.” This program will be evaluated in one year to determine if it should be expanded.

DOC will also force staff to use handheld video cameras to “record, among other things, responses to use of force incidents, cell extractions, and most living quarter searches, except when safety or security concerns require an immediate response that would preclude waiting for the recording requirement.” It will require recordings to be made in full and “any break in the recording be explained.”

Finally, the city will be required to introduce “enhanced computerized tracking systems” to monitor all the data on use of force incidents, investigations and disciplinary actions. The hope is that analyzing this data will help identify patterns that can inform inmate supervision and the oversight of officers. The goal is to set up a comprehensive system by the end of next year that will “track data relating to incidents involving correction officers in a centralized manner.”

While more cameras can be a good thing, they are far from a silver bullet. There are well-documented problems with relying on body cameras and other surveillance technology in law enforcement. For example, officers can simply turn their cameras off, or say they forgot to turn them on in the first place. In more than a few cases, the presence of video evidence doesn’t even change the outcome of proceedings.

Recruitment & Training

Perhaps one of the most shocking and embarrassing aspects of the DOC to be uncovered in investigations over the past two years has been that the department has had virtually no recruitment program and was not conducting background checks on new-hires for nearly a decade. DOC hires were found to have criminal ties, sometimes with people being held on Rikers Island. Others were found to have failed psychological exams and flunked the NYPD test, only to find employment in the city’s jails. Several have been found smuggling contraband to inmates while still others have been charged with extreme brutality against and deadly indifference toward inmates.

To this end, the DOC will develop a “comprehensive staff recruitment program to attract well-qualified applicants and will employ an objective process to select and hire staff.” This includes actually performing background checks for things as basic as making sure new hires aren’t known gang members or have relationships with prisoners on Rikers. The DOC will be made to exercise extra precaution when hiring supervisors and staff for special units like the ESHU and mental health segregation — including an analysis of prior use of force incidents. DOC will also implement additional and more-focused trainings on issues like use of force, crisis intervention and defensive tactics.

Finally, the settlement creates some space for whistleblowers at the DOC. It calls for the establishment of an “anonymous reporting system” to report use of force violations, and the DOC is instructed to “promptly notifty” the US Attorney’s Office of “any use of force incident where correction staff conduct appears to be criminal in nature.”

It’s great to see support for the development of a whistleblower culture at the DOC. But as anyone who has followed whistleblowing cases for the past few years likely knows, the existence of so-called “proper channels” does not preclude the bureaucratic indifference or threat of retaliation that often keeps dissidents quiet.

Incarcerated Children

The agreement also calls for additional reforms aimed at juvenile prisoners. They include specialized programming “to minimize idleness,” capping inmate-to-staff ratios, conducting daily inspections of youth housing, and developing an “age-appropriate classification system” for inmates under the age of 18.

It also calls for moving young inmates to “secure alternative housing” if they express concerns for their safety. It requires the adoption of the Direct Supervision Model, in which staff frequently and informally engage inmates in conversation and intervene in incidents early on to avoid escalation. There will be at least 32 hours of training involved in this program.

The DOC will be required to “timely report and thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual assault involving young inmates” and train officers in youth housing in conflict resolution and crisis intervention — especially with regards to inmates suffering from mental illness.

With regards to the use of solitary confinement against children, the settlement seems not to acknowledge efforts by the Board of Correction to eliminate isolation among inmates aged 16-21, focusing instead on those under 18. While inmates under 18 will not be placed in solitary, inmates that are 18-years-old will be given “a continuum of alternatives.” DOC will not be permitted to use isolation against “any 18-year-old inmate with a serious mental illness,” placing them in solitary only after “a mental health care professional determines that confinement does not present a substantial risk of serious harm to the inmate.” The department will also be made to monitor the physical and mental health of any 18-year-old in solitary. DOC will maintain an “outside consultant” to independently review DOC infraction processes and procedures concerning minors.

Perhaps the most interesting item in the agreement is the plan to develop an “alternative housing site” for young inmates that “will make best efforts to identify an alternative site not located on Rikers Island.” The idea is to create housing that will be easier for family members to visit, increase safety and provide more adequate recreation and programing.

The handling of the youth prisoner dilemma on Rikers Island is perfectly emblamatic of how this “reform program” completely misses the mark. Rather than invest in the institutionalization and refinment of caging children, why not spend that money on developing programs and interventions in their communities instead? Why remove them from their communities at all? The acknowledgement that personal connection is important (made by plans to relocate youth inmates to housing more easily visited and outside of the jail atmosphere) shows that city leaders know jailing kids isn’t working, but lack the resolve to take that extra step and end youth detention altogether.

NYC: Latest Experiment in Carceral Liberalism

After months of platitudes on justice and transparency and accountability from the highest levels of city and federal government, after numerous packed and boisterous board meetings and reports and lawsuits, after promises to make New York City a pillar of progressive criminal justice, what we have been left with is the latest installment of the toxic “carceral Liberalism” sweeping the nation — that is, the drive to try to make prisons more “comfortable” and humane, and less offensive to the sensibilities of the public, instead of looking beyond their use completely.

The absolute madness of this is already becoming apparent. One Rikers reform involved giving mental health workers a greater role in decisions regarding the placement of an inmate in solitary confinement. City officials believed that jail guards had too much power to determine who could and could not be isolated, which they abused, and that placing a health professional in the equation would divert many inmates from the hole. But a recently released report actually argues that having medical staff make any such decision on punitive segregation is a natural violation of their Hippocratic oath to “do no harm.”

Just before that report, an investigation into the first few months of the ESHU found that officers failed to keep complete records and medical staff were delivering inadequate medical care. Despite a new facility, reformed protocols and newly trained staff, it was the same old problems at the same old DOC. Why should we trust the department to behave any differently now?

If NYC really wanted to take the lead in progressive criminal justice reform, it would have invested all of this time, energy and resources into looking beyond jails. The city has the opportunity now to devised new ways to enforce laws and pursue accountability by giving communities the resources and autonomy they need instead of coercing them and tearing them apart. Right now, it is ignoring that opportunity in what seems to be an effort to put this all behind them as quickly as possible.

At bare minimum, the city could have ended youth detention and the isolation of all inmates, but instead it has chosen to move youth detention and refine the use of isolation. It has asked for time and patience for the reforms to take hold, but NYC inmates (or those that have survived the clutches of Rikers) have waited far, far too long already.  This is not just an unacceptable strategy; it’s an insult to the dignity and intelligence of all New Yorkers.

Rikers needs a wrecking ball, not a wrench; the place should be shuttered, not renovated.  Until the city abandons its quest to fix its jails in favor of an effort to replace them with institutions focused on reducing — and not producing — harm, my guess is we will be left to “wait and see” until the next round of horrific reports are released, followed by more task forces, investigations and piecemeal reforms, ad infinitum.

Excited Delirium, the Use of Force and the Death of Natasha McKenna

Update: Taser’s role in the rise of excited delirium diagnoses is an important part of this story. H/T to @SusieMadrak

Last week, police in Fairfax County, Virginia, said a medical examiner determined that a 37 year old mentally ill black woman named Natasha McKenna died of ‘excited delirium’ in February after being tased and restrained by six armored sheriff’s deputies.

I had never heard of excited delirium before, so I dug into it a little bit. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) maintains a resource known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM. The DSM contains a diagnostic classification list that details all the diagnoses recognized by the APA. It’s a pretty big book that details many, many mental disorders and diagnoses. Delirium is a classified diagnosis, but excited delirium is not.

That’s because there is significant and decades-old debate in the medical and civil liberties communities over whether excited delirium is real or if it’s a scapegoat for police brutality. Back in 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported that in-custody deaths involving excited delirium diagnoses were thought to be on the rise:

Although no one tracks the number of suspected cases — nor are there any public records on the number of people who die in police custody — researchers suspect that the condition accounts for a half-dozen deaths in most major cities each year. By some estimates, excited delirium is now being ruled as the reason behind the majority off all in-custody deaths.


According to neurologists and medical examiners who have researched the issue, excited delirium is an often-fatal condition that can occur in a small subset of people who use drugs, mostly stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamines, over a long period of time. Typically, as users continue to take the drugs, the number of drug receptors in the brain rises, which helps pump dopamine and other excess hormones out of the brain.

But in people at risk of excited delirium, there is a genetic fault that impairs the brain’s ability to increase those receptors, they say. After drug use, that can lead to a dangerously high level of hormones in a part of the brain known as the amygdala, which later can bring on delirium, paranoia and aggression. More often than not, that attracts the police.

In such instances, even a minimal struggle can lead to too much pressure on the heart or lungs and the person can die. Another problem: Long-term stimulant use can enlarge and weaken the heart, which can be overtaxed during a big adrenaline rush. “It’s a very dangerous toxic mix of events,” says Karch.

The excited delirium diagnosis originated in the early years of the War on Drugs in cases involving cocaine. It therefor comes directly to us from a law enforcement and forensic psychiatry setting. The diagnosis is not recognized by many mainstream associations like the APA. Most cases involve people in distress who are often suffering from mental illness or, as the LA Times noted, substance abuse and addiction — and the use of force against them by law enforcement, many times involving tasers or restraints.

Amanda Truscott, writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2008, explored the dynamic between excited delirium cases and the use of force. She defined it as “being characterized by agitation, incoherence, bizarre behaviour, high temperature, superhuman strength, a high tolerance for pain — and sometimes, the compulsion to break or bang on glass.”

She tells the story of Robert Dziekanski, who died in-custody after a confrontation with police at the Vancouver International Airport:

Dziekanski touched down in Vancouver on Oct. 14, 2007, following a 13-hour flight from Poland and for 8 hours roamed the immigration lounge, steadfastly insisting that his mother would soon meet him. She, meanwhile, awaited his arrival in the baggage claims area, while airport officials did nothing to ensure the pair could connect. Lost, confused and unable to speak English, Dziekanski used office chairs to build a makeshift barricade between a pair of glass doors as if to ensure that no one could remove him from his meeting place with his mother. Obviously frustrated, he began to throw computer equipment onto the floor and against a glass wall. The police were summoned and in stunning sequence of events captured on video by an eyewitness’s cell phone, Dziekanski was pinned the floor, shot by a taser and eventually died.

The police said medical examiners determined that Dziekanski died of excited delirium.

In cases where an ‘excited’ person is restrained, tased and pinned to the floor and later dies, the excited delirium diagnosis introduces a level of ambiguity that absolves officers of responsibility for that person’s death. While most rational people would read these stories and conclude that, justified or not, it was the struggle and use of force that killed these individuals, excited delirium diagnoses shift the blame to the victim.

After all, isn’t this the primary tactic in law enforcement and criminal justice that got us to this very point of mass incarceration and extreme racism and brutality on behalf of cops and corrections officers? I do not believe the excited delirium diagnosis is all that different from the “super predator” myth of the 1990’s that helped fill American prisons by dehumanizing young black men as animalistic and aggressive. Instead of being treated as patients or just people in need of a crisis intervention, those who are said to have died of excited delirium are similarly labeled as dangerous monsters that needed to be put down.

In light of all of this, it’s fair to say Natasha McKenna’s purported cause of death could probably use an outside 2nd opinion.

h/t my old friend Kirk Murphy for bringing this to my attention

Against Reform: Beyond Rikers Island

There are a couple of things I want to say about the 10 reform bills proposed in the NYC Council this week targeting the Department of Corrections.

First, as I mentioned in my rundown, even if these bills pass, they will be meaningless without rigorous enforcement and oversight by the council. Much of the problem here is not that the city lacks regulations over its jails — it’s that the Department of Corrections seems to follow its own rules and break theirs with impunity. For evidence of this, read pretty much any post I’ve written about Rikers Island.

My next point is more of a confession and a question than anything else. I understand why the council is leading its charge with bills aimed at transparency and reporting. They need this data in order to make well-informed decisions about how to change laws governing incarceration in New York City.

But in the end, I can’t help but think back to the final chapter of Nell Bernstein’s incredible book on ending juvenile incarceration, Burning Down The House.

In the chapter titled, “Against Reform: Beyond the Juvenile Prison,” Bernstein writes:

A great strength of our democracy, our reformist nature is also a critical weakness, blinding us to those occasions when a long-standing institution has a fundamental, conceptual flaw– the kind that demands not a wrench but a wrecking ball. If a reform proves inadequate, we simply try again. Another task force is assembled to supplant a now-defunct commission; new committees are assigned to exhume the wreckage of the old. Sometimes, these efforts pay off, and progress — our national religion — is attained. But there are also occasions when our reformist zeal leaves us patching the roof of a building that lacks a foundation.

Are the Mayor and the City Council approaching their criminal justice crisis with the “wrecking ball” it deserves, or the “wrench?” By maintaining juvenile incarceration, establishing the ESHU and keeping Corizon (among other things), is New York “patching the roof of a building that lacks a foundation?”

New York City Council Introduces 10 Bills to Reform Rikers Island

Update: A few thoughts on this reform package.

This week, New York City Council members introduced 10 bills outlining various reforms to the Department of Correction and city jails. Most of the proposals are focused on capturing data and increasing transparency, while others involve measures like crisis intervention programming and the establishment of an inmate “Bill of Rights.”

The language and formatting used in these bills can be difficult to read, but this stuff is important, so my intent with this post is to pare-down and clean up each of the proposals here, in one place.


Before we begin, there are two things to note. First, some readers may be surprised that the protocols and reports prescribed in these bills weren’t already in place. Some of these measures, such as tracking injuries and excessive use of force incidents, might seem like no-brainers, because they are. This slate of legislation reveals the comprehensive secrecy and opacity that has blanketed city jails and protected the department from oversight for decades.

Second, it is important to understand that even if all of these transparency measures are passed in their current form, it will take rigorous oversight to ensure the Department of Correction’s compliance. They have a history of dodgy and non-existent reporting, and unlike in the past, they will need to be called to account for any substandard performance.

Quarterly reports on bail status

Court delays and excessive or prohibitively expensive bail amounts are some of the primary driving forces behind New York City’s jail population. As part of a city-wide effort to clear up the logjam in the courts and reduce the length of stay for pretrial detainees (who make up the majority of NYC inmates), the council is proposing regular reporting on bail status for city inmates.

Injury reports and investigations

There have been multiple reports of heinous abuses and injuries on Rikers Island — and the investigations are often too few or far between to be noticed. This bill would illuminate such incidents and provide a way for the public and government to track the city’s progress in both reducing their number and resolving more of these cases in a just manner.

Security indicator reports

Monthly security indicator reports will give regular insight into things like the number of assaults and other security issues in city jails. This is one of those proposals that you almost can’t believe isn’t already a critical part of jail operations.

Crisis Intervention Program

With over 40% of Rikers Island inmates suffering from mental illness, it’s imperative that the city implement the appropriate protocols to care for this population and avoid their abuse, injury and death. The creation of a CIP and regular reporting on their operations will attempt to confront the high levels of violence facing mentally ill inmates in NYC jails.

Quarterly reports on excessive use of force investigations

The excessive use of force by New York City correction officials is practically legendary. Last year, the Department of Justice used the phrase “culture of brutality” to describe the environment in which inmates must live on Rikers Island. If the city is serious about getting control over its guards and reducing this violence, it will need regular reports like these.

Quarterly reports on inmate grievance system

Inmates have little recourse in NYC jails and face significant challenges in having their grievances and complaints addressed in a timely or serious matter (or at all). Regular reporting on the grievance system will ensure that the Department is doing due diligence with regards to these complaints.

Enhanced Supervision Housing reporting

The ESHU is perhaps the most controversial part of NYC’s affair with criminal justice reform, and initial reports from the facility do not instill confidence. There have been a lot of promises made about the ESHU: that mentally ill inmates would be diverted; that there would be adequate programming; and that it wouldn’t be used as just another overflow solitary unit. We are going to need robust reporting to verify that those promises are being kept.

Publishing DOC’s use of force policies

The Department of Correction’s use of force policy should be made widely available and should be the product of a transparent and informed debate. This is important for inmates as well as officers — and the public should have the opportunity to evaluate whether specific incidents fall within or outside that policy (or whether the policy needs to be changed).

Quarterly reports on jail demographics

Part of NYC jail reform entails reforming policing and jailing practices around the city. By reporting regularly on inmate demographics, the public can track and see how and whether the population is changing and evaluate these efforts that disproportionately target minorities or people suffering from mental illness.

Creation of an inmate Bill of Rights

The name of this reform is a little misleading, but it’s important nonetheless. This bill would make the DOC inform inmates of their rights while behind bars. NYC jails primarily house pre-trial detainees, many of whom lack the funds for bail let alone adequate legal representation (not a dig at public defenders, but they’re overworked and often play the long game). Any effort on behalf of the city to provide inmates with assistance in understanding their rights and situation should be very much welcomed.

Reform Package Details

1. Quarterly reports on bail status

By Council Members Rosenthal, Crowley, Dromm, Cumbo, Koslowitz, Palma, Cornegy, Torres, Cohen and Rodriguez

Int. No. 753 would require NYC’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to post regular reports on the department’s website regarding the bail status of inmates in the city.

The reports will include:

  1. The average daily population of inmates in the custody of the department of correction.
  2. # and % of inmates who had been sentenced, held on pending criminal charges, and in any other category.
  3. % remanded without bail.
  4. # sentenced to a definite sentence
  5. % whose sentences were of the following lengths: 1-15 days; 16-30 days; 31-90 days;  91-180 days; or 180 days or more.
  6. # and % with pending criminal charges for felonies, misdemeanors or non-criminal charges
  7. # and % with pending criminal charges for violent and nonviolent felonies, misdemeanors or non-criminal charges.
  8. # and % charged with:
    • Misdemeanor: larceny, drug possession, assault, harassment, theft of services, trespass, criminal mischief or graffiti, sexual crimes, resisting arrest or obstructing governmental administration, marijuana possession.
    • Felony: vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter, homicide or manslaughter, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, arson, robbery or grand larceny, drug possession or sale, firearm or weapons possession
    • Driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a suspended license
  9. # and % who had bail fixed in the following amounts: $1; $2-500; $501-$1000; $1001-2500; $2501-5000; $5001-10,000; $10,001-25,000; $25,001-50,000; $50,001-100,000; or $100,001 and higher
  10. # and % who had no criminal record or a criminal history with 1 or more non-violent felony conviction but no violent felony convictions; or with 1 or more violent felony convictions.
  11. % who had been incarcerated for the following lengths of time: 1-2 days; 3-5 days; 6-15 days; 16-30 days; 31-90 days; 91-180 days; 180 – 365 days; or 366 days or more.

The bill also sets out to get the following information from the police and the courts:

  1. # and % of cases in which bail was set at arraignment on a misdemeanor or felony complaint.
  2. # and % of cases in which bail was posted during any time in which the most serious pending count was a misdemeanor or felony, and the defendant failed to appear for at least one court appearance during the reporting period.
  3. # and % of cases in which the defendant was released without bail during any time in which the most serious pending count was a misdemeanor and the defendant failed to appear for at least one court appearance during the reporting period.
  4. # and % of cases in which the defendant’s release was subject to specified conditions, including but not limited to supervised release programs, but not including the sole condition that the defendant not be re-arrested.
  5. % of cases in which a form of bail other than cash or insurance company bond was ordered.
  6. % of cases in which the defendant posted bail, in total and disaggregated by the following bail amounts: (a) $1-500; (b) $501-$1000; (c) $1001-2500; (d) $2501-5000; (e) $5001-10,000; (f) $10,001-25,000; (g) $25,001-50,000; (h) $50,001-100,000; or (i) $100,001 and higher.
  7. % of cases in which the disposition was as follows: (a) conviction for a violent felony; (b) conviction for of a non-violent felony; (c) conviction for a misdemeanor; (d) conviction for a non-criminal offense; (e) charges dismissed or adjourned in contemplation of dismissal; or (f) any other disposition.
  8. % of cases in which the status of the criminal case is as follows: (a) the charges are pending and the defendant was released by posting bail, (b) the charges are pending and the defendant was released by court order, (c) the charges are pending and the defendant was not released (d) conviction for a violent felony; (e) conviction for a non-violent felony; (f) conviction for a misdemeanor; (g) conviction for a non-criminal offense; (h) charges dismissed or adjourned in contemplation of dismissal; or (i) any other disposition.
  9. % of cases in which the status of the criminal case on the final day of the reporting period is as follows: (a) the charges are pending and the defendant was released by posting bail, (b) the charges are pending and the defendant was released by court order, (c) the charges are pending and the defendant was not released (d) conviction for a violent felony; (e) conviction for a non-violent felony; (f) conviction for a misdemeanor; (g) conviction for a non-criminal offense; (h) charges dismissed or adjourned in contemplation of dismissal; or (i) any other disposition.

2. Injury Reports and Investigations

By Council Members Cabrera, Arroyo, Dickens, Dromm, Gentile, Johnson, King, Mealy, Richards and Rose
Int. No. 759 would require the departments of Correction and Health and Mental Hygiene to produce reports on injuries to inmates and staff in city jails. It would also require those cases to be referred for investigation.

Beginning October 1, 2015, the departments will be required to issue quarterly reports on the following:

  1. # of physical injuries to the head and the number of serious physical injuries to inmates and staff, in total and the rate of each such injury per 100 inmates/staff
  2. # of incidents in which the department determined that staff violated departmental rules or directives regarding the use of force;
  3. # of incidents in which the department determined that excessive force was used;
  4. # of incidents referred to a District Attorney’s office;
  5. # of incidents in which command discipline was recommended or imposed;
  6. The nature of any command discipline sanctions imposed;
  7. # of incidents in which the department brought formal charges;
  8. # of incidents in which sanctions were imposed pursuant to formal charges;
  9. The nature of any sanctions recommended by the department or administrative law judge as part of formal charges;
  10. The nature of any sanctions imposed by the department as part of formal charges;
  11. The number of incidents in which the sanctions imposed differed from those recommended by the department or an administrative law judge pursuant to formal charges along with a written explanation regarding the reasons for varying from the recommendation.

The council will also attempt to obtain from District Attorney:

  1. Total # of cases referred for criminal prosecution,
  2. # that were actually prosecuted,
  3. # in which the inmate was charged with a felony or misdemeanor.

3. Security indicator reports

By Council Members Ferreras, The Speaker (Council Member Mark-Viverito), The Public Advocate (Ms. James), Garodnick, Cabrera, Dromm, Johnson, Lander, Levine, Mealy, Richards and Rose
Int. No. 763 would require the Department of Correction Commissioner to issue monthly reports on security indicators inside city jails.
Beginning October 1, 2015, the commissioner will be required to report:
  1. Assaults on inmates and staff involving a knife or other dangerous instrument
  2. Assaults on staff or inmates in which the staff suffered physical injury and/or was admitted to a hospital as a result
  3. Fight infractions written against inmates, and whether the inmate has been designated a “gang member”
  4. Homicides involving inmates
  5. Suicides and attempted suicides by inmates
  6. Substantiated incidents of sexual assault by and against inmates and staff
  7. Allegations, incidents and hospitalizations related to use of force (A, B and C)
  8. Class B use of force incidents involving mechanical restraints
  9. Class C use of force incidents involving chemical agents
  10. Average daily inmate population.

4. Crisis Intervention Program

By Council Members Gibson, Dromm and Eugene
Int. No. 770 would require the Department of Correction to create a crisis intervention program that will “establish protocols to […] utilize crisis intervention teams to address frequently encountered issues with mentally ill inmates, including but not limited to situations in which mentally ill inmates refuse to leave their cell or refuse to follow officer’s commands.
It also calls for there to be “at least one crisis intervention team available in any facility in which the department could reasonably foresee that a crisis could occur, at any time during which the department could reasonably foresee that a crisis could occur.”
The commissioner would be required to meet with Health and Mental Hygiene annually to evaluate the program and issue annual reports on the department’s website as well. Those reports would include:
  1. # of correction officers and non-correction officers who received crisis intervention training
  2. Total # of departmental and non-departmental employees who have received such training.
  3. # of crisis intervention teams utilized by the department.
  4. # of crises responded to by crisis intervention teams, in total and disaggregated by facility.
  5. # of crises responded to without a crisis intervention team, in total and disaggregated by facility.

5. Quarterly reports on excessive use of force investigations

By Council Members Mendez, Garodnick, Cabrera, Chin, Constantinides, Dromm, Johnson, Lander, Richards and Rose
Int. No. 778 would rquire the board of correction and the commissioners of the DOC and DOI to issue quarterly reports on investigations of excessive use of force by correction officers on inmates.
  1. # of incidents in which a facility investigation was conducted
  2. # of incidents investigated by investigation division
  3. # of incidents in which the department of investigation submitted a report regarding the use of force by staff on inmates
Indicators include:
  1. # of incidents in which the department determined that staff violated departmental rules or directives regarding the use of force,
  2. # of incidents in which the department determined that excessive force was used,
  3. # of incidents in which command discipline was recommended,
  4. #of incidents in which command discipline was imposed,
  5. the nature of any command discipline sanctions imposed
  6. # of incidents in which the department brought formal charges
  7. # of incidents in which sanctions were imposed pursuant to formal charges, 
  8. the nature of any sanctions recommended by the department and/or an administrative law judge as part of formal charges,
  9. the nature of any sanctions imposed by the commissioner as part of formal charges.

6. Quarterly reports on inmate grievance system

By Council Members Barron, Arroyo, Cabrera, Dickens, Dromm, Johnson, Levine, Richards, Williams and Torres

Int. No. 758 would require the commissioner of the Department of Correction to issue quarterly reports on the inmate grievance system.

Beginning October 1, 2015, the report would include:

  1. # of grievances submitted in all departmental facilities, by facility: enhanced supervision housing, punitive segregation, health clinics, and any other facility in which a grievance and request box or an inmate grievance and request program office is not available
  2. #of grievances submitted in all departmental facilities, by method: the grievance and request box, the inmate grievance and request program office, directly to an inmate grievance and request program staff member, or any other method
  3. # of grievances in which the subject matter of the grievance request was deemed to be outside the scope of the inmate grievance request process and in which the request was forwarded to another entity
  4. #of grievances that were dismissed, including for the following reasons:
    • the inmate was not personally affected by the condition at issue with the grievance
    • the subject matter of the grievance was outside the department’s jurisdiction
    • the inmate was transferred from the facility in which the issue occurred, or any other reason for dismissal;
  5. # of grievances that were withdrawn by the inmate;
  6. # of grievances in which an informal resolution was proposed;
  7. # of grievances in which an informal resolution was accepted by the inmate in writing;
  8. # of grievances in which the inmate requested a hearing before the inmate grievance resolution committee;
  9. # of grievances in which the inmate grievance resolution committee proposed a disposition;
  10. # of grievances in which the inmate accepted the disposition of the inmate grievance resolution committee in writing;
  11. # of grievances in which the inmate appealed the disposition of the inmate grievance resolution committee to the inmate grievance and resolution program commanding officer;
  12. # of grievances in which the inmate grievance and resolution program commanding officer proposed a disposition;
  13. # of grievances in which the inmate accepted the disposition proposed by the inmate grievance resolution program commanding officer in writing;
  14. # of grievances in which the inmate appealed the disposition of the inmate grievance resolution program commanding officer to the central office review committee;
  15. # of grievances in which the central office review committee rendered a decision
  16. # of inmates that submitted grievances.

7. Enhanced Supervision Housing reporting

By Council Members Garodnick, Dromm, Ferreras, Constantinides, Gentile, Johnson, Lander, Levine and Rose
Int. No. 768 would require the Department of Correction to issue a report on Rikers Island’s new Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit.
The report report would include:
  1. # of inmates in each security risk group
  2. # of inmates subject to enhanced restraints, including but not limited to, shackles, waist chains and hand mittens
  3. # of inmates sent to punitive segregation, restricted housing and clinical alternative to punitive segregation housing
  4. # of those inmates from mental observation housing areas
  5. # of inmates, by highest infraction offense grade as classified by the department, (grade one, two, or three)
  6. # of inmates serving punitive segregation per the following time periods: less than ten days, ten to thirty days, thirty-one to ninety days, ninety-one to one hundred eighty days, one hundred eighty-one to three hundred sixty-five days, and more than three hundred sixty-five days
  7. # of inmates receiving mental health services
  8. # of inmates twenty-one years of age and under
  9. # of inmates over twenty-one years of age in ten-year intervals
  10. Race and gender of  ESHU inmates
  11. # of inmates who received infractions while in punitive segregation, restricted housing and clinical alternative to punitive segregation housing
  12. # of inmates who received infractions that lead to the imposition of additional punitive segregation time
  13. # of inmates who committed or attempted suicide
  14. # of inmates on suicide watch
  15. # of inmates who caused injury to themselves (excluding suicide attempt)
  16. # of inmates seriously injured while in punitive segregation, restricted housing and clinical alternative to punitive segregation housing,
  17. # of inmates who were sent to non-psychiatric hospitals outside the city jails,
  18. # of inmates who died (non-suicide),
  19. # of inmates transferred to a psychiatric hospital from punitive segregation (not MHU)
  20. # of inmates transferred to a psychiatric hospital from MHU
  21. # of inmates moved from general punitive segregation to MHU
  22. # of inmates placed into MHU following a disciplinary hearing
  23. # of inmates moved from MHU to punitive segregation (not MHU),
  24. # of inmates prescribed anti-psychotic medications, mood stabilizers or anti-anxiety medications, by type
  25. # of requests made by inmates for medical or mental health treatment and the number granted
  26. # of requests made by inmates to attend congregate religious services and the number granted
  27. # of requests made by inmates for assistance from the law library and the number granted
  28. # of requests made by inmates to make telephone calls and the number granted, by weekly personal calls
  29. # of inmate recreation days and the number of recreation hours attended
  30. # of individual recreation hours that were offered to inmates prior to six a.m.
  31. # of inmate shower days and the number of showers taken
  32. # of inmates who received visits
  33. # of instances of allegations of use of force
  34. # of instances of use of force
  35. # of instances in which contraband was found
  36. # of instances of allegations and substantiated staff on inmate sexual assault
  37. # of instances of allegations and substantiated inmate on staff sexual assault

8. Publishing DOC’s use of force policies

By Council Members Garodnick, Dromm, Ferreras, Chin, Constantinides, Johnson, Lander and Levine
Int. No. 767 would require the Department of Correction to publish its policies on the use of force against inmates on the department’s website.

9. Quarterly reports on jail demographics

By Council Members Garodnick, Dromm, Ferreras, Cabrera, Chin, Constantinides, Johnson, Lander, Levine, Richards and Rose
Int. No. 766 would require the Department of Correction to issue quarterly reports on city jail population demographics.
Those reports would include:
  1. Age,
  2. Gender, including a separate category for transgender inmates,
  3. Race
  4. The borough in which the inmate was arrested.
  5. Educational background
  6. # of inmates identified by the department as a member of a “criminal gang”

 10. Creation of an inmate Bill of Rights

By Council Members Crowley and Dromm

This bill would require the Department of Correction “communicate to every inmate their rights as inmates in plain and simple language, both in writing and orally.

Medical Examiner Says Mentally Ill Inmate Natasha McKenna Died of Excited Delirium

UPDATE: More on ‘excited delirium’ and its diagnosis in in-custody deaths involving the use of force.

According to the Fairfax County Police, a medical examiner has ruled that 37-year old inmate Natasha McKenna died of ‘excited delirium’ while in custody last February.

Natasha suffered from schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, and was arrested on January 26th after she called 911 to report she had been assaulted. After taking her to the hospital, police realized they had a warrant for her arrest stemming from an alleged assault on a police officer a few weeks earlier.

After a few days behind bars, Natasha’s condition deteriorated rapidly to the point that jail officials felt it necessary to remove the distressed 5’3″, 130 pound woman from her cell using six armor-clad sheriff’s deputies, a spit hood, restraints and tasers.

It’s unclear whether Natasha was receiving any kind of mental health treatment prior to her detention, and there hasn’t been any indication yet of the quality of care she received behind bars.

If the Fairfax County Police were negligent in providing adequate mental healthcare to Natasha, and thereafter chose to use brute force, weapons and restraints to confront her, it’s not hard to see how she might die from a state of excited delirium.