DOJ: New York jail routinely violates rights of adolescent inmates

DOJ: New York jail routinely violates rights of adolescent inmates

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] released a report [press release] Monday finding that the New York City Department of Correction [official website] has routinely violated the constitutional rights of male teenagers at the Rikers Island jail complex. The report was released after a multi-year investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) [text] was completed, which found that correctional officers relied on physical forms of punishment. No legal action has commenced [Reuters report] as a result of the report, however, US attorney for New York’s Southern District Preet Bharara and Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] released a joint statement about the detention center, stating:

“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 report advises the city to implement changes for improvement, such as increasing the use of surveillance cameras, revising the use-of-force policy and creating a policy for staff to report suspicious officer behavior.

Rehabilitation principles for juvenile offenders are frequently raised as a concern [JURIST op-ed]. Last year, three companies behind private juvenile detention and treatment facilities involved in a northeastern Pennsylvania juvenile justice scandal settled a civil lawsuit [JURIST report] for $2.5 million. The scandal involved two former judges for the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website], Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, who allegedly received $2.8 million in kickbacks from a commercial builder, an attorney and a businessman in exchange for helping to construct and operate two juvenile detention centers and placing hundreds of juvenile offenders there.