Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Guard Violence At Rikers Grew Under Mayor Bloomberg

Does this get added to Mayor Bloomberg's "legacy"?

The portrait that emerged from the report on Rikers Island by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan last week was of a place with almost medieval levels of violence, meted out with startling ferocity by guards and their superiors. 

The two-and-a-half-year investigation, which focused on the abuse of teenage inmates by correction staff, was exhaustive in cataloging the brutality. But a critical question that went unaddressed is how conditions were allowed to get to this point.

Rikers has been a place of violent excess for decades. And the growing ranks of inmates with mental illnesses, reaching nearly 40 percent of the jail population today, have added to the challenges for correction officials. 

But conditions worsened substantially under the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, which reduced jail staff and failed to curb escalating violence by guards, according to former correction officials, inmates’ advocates and others intimately familiar with the jail.

“There was very little interest in expending political capital and financial capital on the jails,” said Martin F. Horn, who was correction commissioner during Mr. Bloomberg’s first two terms.

As mayor, Mr. Bloomberg earned a reputation for being a consummate manager who leveraged his private sector experience to tackle municipal problems. But he never made Rikers a high priority, at a time when conditions were drastically deteriorating, according to people familiar with its problems.

During Mr. Bloomberg’s last term, use of force by officers on inmates jumped by 90 percent, according to Correction Department data. Inmates’ advocates and public officials charged with overseeing the jails said they pleaded for the administration to address the issue.

“We met with the Department of Correction and the Bloomberg administration about the prevalence of violence directed by correctional staff towards prisoners, and they didn’t respond,” said Dr. Robert Cohen, a member of the New York City Board of Correction, a watchdog agency.

In short, they didn't give a shit about the violence at Rikers, the worsening conditions, what is termed in the Times story "almost medieval levels of violence."

I ask again, does the "almost medieval levels of violence meted out with startling ferocity by guards and their superiors" at Rikers to teenage prisoners get added to his "legacy"?

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