Teenage inmates frequently have their constitutional rights violated at New York City’s juvenile jails, a report by the Department of Justice shows. According to the Associated Press, the report stated that guards regularly subject adolescents to “rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force,”
The report, released on August 5th, looked at problems that occurred between 2011 and 2013 in three Rikers Island juvenile jail facilities for 16-to 18-year olds. The DOJ advised major changes in almost every aspect of how the inmates are treated. They found issues with staff training, investigations, management structure and the overuse of solitary confinement, especially for inmates with mental illnesses. The problems are also likely to apply to adult inmates.
At a news conference, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said “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,”
Some of the most prevalent problems involved the main jail that houses young inmates, where new guards are assigned to “one of the most combustible environments at Rikers, ill-equipped to cope with adolescents who are often belligerent and suffer from a wide range of mental illnesses and behavioral disorders,” wrote U.S. attorneys Jeffrey Powell and Emily Daughtry.
There are particular concerns about the high rates of punches to the head and use-of-force, according to the consultant used by federal prosecutors. For instance, one case showed that four inmates suffered from broken noses, perforated eardrums, head trauma and facial injuries during a “brutal use of force”. The incident involved multiple guards in two locations. The prosecutors noted that no video surveillance was available and no investigative reports were completed.
In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Joseph Ponte as commissioner of the DOC. Ponte formerly served as commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections and has a reputaation as a reformer.