In what the New York Times calls an extraordinary rebuke of the New York City Department of Correction, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said the city had systematically violated the civil rights of male teenagers held at its Rikers Island jail complex by failing to protect them from the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by correction officers. A report described a “deep-seated culture of violence” against youthful inmates at the jail complex, perpetrated by guards who operated with little fear of punishment.
The report blamed a “powerful code of silence” among the Rikers staff, along with a virtually useless system for investigating attacks by guards. The result was a “staggering” number of injuries among inmates. The report found that the department relied to an “excessive and inappropriate” degree on solitary confinement to punish inmates, placing them in punitive segregation for months at a time. The investigation found that nearly 44 percent of the adolescent male population as of October 2012 had been subjected to a use of force by staff members at least once. Officers struck adolescents in the head and face at “an alarming rate” as punishment, even when inmates posed no threat; officers took inmates to isolated areas for beatings away from video cameras; and many inmates were so afraid of violence that they asked, for their own protection, to go to solitary confinement.