Last summer, four New York City correction officers pulled an inmate classified as seriously mentally ill into his solitary-confinement cell at the Rikers Island jail and beat him unconscious, reports the New York Times. A few months later, three guards wrestled another inmate to the floor, pepper-sprayed him in the face and broke a bone in his eye socket. On Dec. 9, other officers beat an inmate with an I.Q. of 65 so badly that he had bruises and scratches on his face and blood coming from his mouth. The brutal confrontations were among 62 cases identified by the Times in which inmates were seriously injured by correction officers between last August and January, when city and federal officials were increasingly focused on reining in violence at Rikers.
In August, the U.S. Attorney reported on brutality at the jail complex and threatened to sue the city unless conditions improved. In November, Mayor Bill de Blasio said ending pervasive violence at Rikers had become a top priority for his administration. The violence has continued largely unabated, despite extraordinary levels of outside scrutiny. Guards used physical force against inmates 4,074 times in 2014, the highest total in more than a decade. “It takes time to undo decades of mismanagement,” the correction department said. “We are, however, on our way to a jail system that is safer and more humane.”