Brutal attacks by correction officers on inmates, particularly those with mental health issues, are common occurrences inside New York City’s Rikers, the nation's second-largest jail, a four-month investigation by the New York Times found. A earth of whistle-blowers, along with the reluctance of the city's Department of Correction to acknowledge the problem and the fact that guards are rarely punished, has kept the full extent of the violence hidden from public view. The newspaper uncovered details on scores of assaults through interviews with current and former inmates, correction officers and mental health clinicians at the jail, and by reviewing hundreds of pages of legal, investigative and jail records.
An internal study by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which handles medical care at Rikers, on violence by officers helps lay bare the culture of brutality on the island and makes clear that it is inmates with mental illnesses who absorb the overwhelming brunt of the violence. The study, which the health department refused to release under the state's Freedom of Information Law, found that over an 11-month period last year, 129 inmates suffered “serious injuries” in altercations with correction department staff members. The report cataloged in exacting detail the severity of injuries suffered by inmates: fractures, wounds requiring stitches, head injuries and the like. Some 77 percent of the seriously injured inmates had received a mental illness diagnosis.