Justice for Rikers Island Inmates
Rikers Island is a small 413 acre island in the middle of New York’s East River. It is also the home of New York City’s primary jail complex. For years, the city has promised to close the archaic facility and replace it with a network of modern community based jails. But those promises never seem to materialize.
Just a few years ago, Rikers was bursting at the seams with over 11,000 inmates. In the post COVID world, the population may be down a bit but the facility is still overcrowded and conditions inhumane. In fact, most everyone (including the city) agrees that the violence at Rikers has reached a crisis.
In May, a federal monitor appointed by the courts to monitor conditions at Rikers Island said conditions had reached a “pervasive level of disorder and chaos.” Even as the pandemic began to recede in New York, conditions at the New York City Department of Corrections worsened.
Have things improved since that report in May? Unfortunately they are now much, much worse. Today, the New York Post reported on one shift last weekend, at least 33 guard posts were left unmanned and 22 officers were working triple shifts. Forcing guards to work for 24 hours straight is a recipe for disaster. Things have reached the level of disaster.
Yesterday City Corrections Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said, “The level of disorder here is deeply, deeply troubling. I’m not going to deny that there are serious problems here.”
New York City has hired an ad agency to help recruit 600 officers but in the last 2 years 1300 have quit or retired and experts say the jail needs 2000 new officers to reach proper staffing.
So who suffers? The thousands of inmates stuck at Rikers. Their families too.
With sleeping guards, unmanned guard stations and hundreds of cell doors with broken locks, violence in the facility is at an all-time high. Murders, stabbings, rapes. Typically, we are unable to hold jails responsible for inmate-on-inmate assaults and murders but when a jail or prison completely abdicates its responsibilities and lets inmates run the facility, all the rules change.
It’s not just the violence that has gotten out of hand. The lack of staffing means inmates with mental illness, inmates suffering from drug withdrawals and those with acute medical needs aren’t getting lifesaving medical attention either.
Earlier this month, an inmate died after he couldn’t get medical attention. While that itself is news, the inmate’s bail had been set at just $1 but family members were unable to get anyone at the jail to accept the bail and guards apparently missed bringing him to court on three separate dates. A family lost a loved one over a misdemeanor with a one-dollar bail. The system is truly broken.
Things are so bad today that the director of the Prisoner’s Rights Project said that Rikers Island is more dangerous today that at any time in the last fifty years. “The city has completely lost control and as a result, people are not being protected from violence and are locked in the housing areas for days with no food, showers, access to lawyers or medical visits.”
Did You or a Loved One Suffer Medical Neglect or an Injury at Rikers Island?
Unfortunately, absent a direct assault by a guard, holding jail officials, guards and jail medical staff responsible for inmate deaths, suicides and injuries is extremely difficult. Current law gives these folks broad legal immunities.
We believe that conditions at Rikers are so bad right now that Mayor De Blasio and corrections staff can be held responsible. Usually, we blame the guards but right now there are no guards. The city has failed its most basic obligations to inmates and their families.
Our team of jail injury and medical neglect lawyers is made up of former prosecutors, judges, well-known civil rights advocates, and award-winning trial lawyers. They have decades of fighting for civil rights and against a broken prison system under their belt. At Jail Death and Injury Law we have developed a set of proven strategies to minimize law enforcement cover-ups and maximize compensation for victims' families.
To learn more, visit our jail medical neglect and inmate death lawsuit information pages. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 866-836-4684. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege.
[We regret that we do not accept collect calls nor are we able to help inmates obtain medical treatment. Our medical neglect cases are limited to inmates who have suffered a serious injury or died because of medical neglect.]