NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City’s juvenile jails are extremely violent and unsafe, the result of a deeply ingrained culture of violence in which guards routinely violate constitutional rights of teenage inmates and subject them to “rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force,” the federal government said in a scathing report released Monday.
The report, the result of a 2 and 1/2-year Justice Department investigation into violence at three Rikers Island juvenile jail facilities, recommended major reforms to almost every aspect of how young offenders are treated.
“As our investigation has shown, for adolescents, Rikers Island is a broken institution,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “It is a place where brute force is the first impulse rather than the last resort; where verbal insults are repaid with physical injuries; where beatings are routine while accountability is rare; and where a culture of violence endures even while a code of silence prevails.”
“The extremely high rates of violence and excessive use of solitary confinement for adolescent males uncovered by this investigation are inappropriate and unacceptable,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
The report identified problems that occurred between 2011 and 2013 that also likely hold true for adult inmates, including poor staff training, inadequate investigations, an ineffective management structure and the overuse of solitary confinement, particularly for mentally ill inmates.
“Indeed, while we did not specifically investigate the use of force against the adult inmate population, our investigation suggests that the systemic deficiencies identified in this report may exist in equal measure at the other jails on Rikers,” the government attorneys from Manhattan wrote.