New York City officials have tentatively agreed to sweeping reforms that would remake the city’s Rikers Island jail complex, including the appointment of a federal monitor, explicit prohibitions against guards' striking prisoners in the head and the introduction of body cameras worn by guards, the New York Times reports. Other reforms city officials are expected to endorse include the development of a computerized system to better track the use of force by correction officers, an early warning program to flag guards who use force against inmates three or more times in six months, injuring at least one of them, and 8,000 new surveillance cameras throughout the jail.
The measures are part of a legal settlement that has been largely agreed upon, after months of negotiation, by lawyers for Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, as well as the Legal Aid Society and a group of private lawyers who in 2011 filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, There is no final deal and pending disputes could get in the way of a settlement. Bharara's office and the city's Law Department told a federal magistrate judge that they expected a deal to be completed by Monday. Some of the measures that the city has tentatively agreed to would have seemed unimaginable as recently as early 2014, underscoring the suddenness with which Rikers reform has leapt to the forefront of the mayor’s agenda. The city's Department of Correction has been under scrutiny from the Times, the Associated Press and the New Yorker magazine, as well as the city's Investigation Department, which documented widespread brutality, corruption and dysfunction at Rikers.