Brutal Treatment of Kids at Rikers Island Jail ‘Inspired by Lord of the Flies,’ Says DOJ


New York City’s Rikers Island complex is one of the most notorious prisons in the country. Located on a small island in the East River, in the flight path of LaGuardia Airport, Rikers is known for staggering rates of inmate violence, rape, abuse of mentally ill inmates, and one of the highest national rates of solitary confinement. Though the complex has been the subject of numerous lawsuits and exposés, including a multi-part New York Times series this year on the appalling treatment of mentally ill inmates, it remains wracked by brutality and chaos.

In a scathing report released Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the South District of New York railed against the treatment of adolescent inmates at Rikers, some 51% of whom suffer from some form of mental illness. These 16-18 year old offenders are routinely subjected to physical abuse at the hands of both Department of Corrections officers and other inmates. In a statement, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara referred to the adolescent facilities at Rikers as “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.”…

Teen inmates suffered 22 jaw fractures in the first five and a half months of 2012, and 239 head injuries between June 2012 and July 2013. One officer was involved in 76 use-of-force over a six-year period and was disciplined only once during that time. Broken noses, fractured limbs and lacerations requiring stitches are routine, as is the practice of confining those who break jailhouse rules to punitive segregation—23 hours in an isolated cell that is essentially identical to solitary confinement.



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