Rikers Fight Club

After indications for more than a year that guards were using inmates as enforcers, New York's jails are rocked by a pair of indictments

The McKie indictment has raised another issue. For many years now, the department has relied on statistics regarding stabbings and slashings in public testimony as its indicator of violence in the jails. Whenever the issue of violence is raised, officials trot out the low number of stabbings and slashings to show that the jail system is safe. Indeed, the figure has declined sharply over the past 15 years.

But this case vividly demonstrates that the figure is a poor indicator of the level of violence in today's environment. For one, it does not count beatings, broken bones, smashed noses, broken ribs, bruising, and many other kinds of injuries. Christopher Robinson's murder, for example, will not be counted as a stabbing or slashing.

Moreover, both the inmates and guards knew how to conceal injuries from the beatings, and they knew how to extort their victims into hiding the beating or lying about it. In other words, the system has evolved its own methods to avoid the heightened scrutiny that comes when a slashing or stabbing takes place.

In the end, no matter what the stats show, the number does not provide an accurate picture of the level of violence in RNDC.

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