Head strikes should be rare in jails, but in New York City, hundreds of inmates have suffered head injuries in recent years after clashes with correction officers, says a federal lawsuit reported by the New York Times. The case cites reports that inmates’ heads were punched, hit with batons, and kicked in a roster of pain that is costly in human and medical terms and adds friction to an already tense environment. Officers suffered broken fingers, fractured wrists, and sprained arms.
The suit charges that the city’s officers routinely use head blows instead of starting with less harmful methods. City guards allegedly have not been adequately trained to follow the sequence of escalating force tactics, even though it is clearly spelled out in city correction policy. After four years of legal jousting, the two sides are now in intensive settlement talks. Judge Denny Chin has set a trial date for Nov. 28 but apparently hopes to work out an agreement before then. The city points out that recorded incidents in which guards used force in its jails have decreased significantly, dropping by 33 percent from 2000 to 2004, and are infrequent considering that the system admits 100,000 new inmates a year. The lawsuit looks closely at incidents in which guards used force against inmates in six jails on Rikers Island from Jan. 1, 2000, to Aug. 1, 2003. Of 2,596 incidents, 703 produced head injuries to 738 inmates.