By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Shocking images back up what we've been reporting for years: New York City's jails are houses of horror
These documents include statements teens wrote themselves immediately after they were attacked. The statements depict a troubling Lord of the Flies–like subculture existing in RNDC.
Teen inmate Arthur Dawson, 19, who had just been assaulted on April 14, 2010, told investigators he was attacked because he declined to let the team use his personal-identification number to make phone calls.
"I was taking a shower when I got jumped by 'Bam Bam,' 'Pistol,' 'Tail,' 'Jack,' and 'Bones' because I refused to give up my PIN number and sit in the back table," Dawson wrote.
Eighteen-year-old Jonathan Vasquez, attacked on January 1, 2011, told investigators that after an inmate hit him in the face several times, "his friends told me to give them my pants, and I did and later that night, he punch [sic] me in my face anyway. I wish to be placed in PC [protective custody] for my protecting."
On June 17, 2009, inmate Francis Bastardo, 17, was attacked. He wrote: "I'm always being extorted, and I got smacked in the face a couple days ago. Every day I want to lock in my cell because I'm afraid for my own safety. I could only use the phone some days of the week. I got only a little bit of food with no milk."
After his assault on June 14, 2009, inmate Alex Dove, 16, wrote that he wasn't allowed to sit at a table in the dayroom. "I was not sitting at any of them [tables] because they called me a dayroom gay, they began slapping me," he wrote. "I wasn't even getting a tray for breakfast in the morning."
On August 21, 2010, after he was assaulted, Edwin DeJesus writes that he was jumped by eight inmates, locked into his cell, and fought again and slashed, and when he was sent back to his cell, his commissary had been stolen.
On June 18, 2009, Akeem Cordes, 23, after his assault, wrote: "On May 9th, my statement was read in arraignment court, and I was put back in the pens, I was assaulted by my co-defendant Kizzo . . . because he heard what I said to the detectives and thought I was snitching. He assaulted me by head butting me."
Adron Torres, 18, was attacked on April 7, 2011. In his statement, he wrote: "When I was walking down the stairs from the visiting floor, a Spanish dude who is Patria came pass [sic] me and pushed the guy in front of me. The Patria guy had a white cloth in his hand. Then the guy ran back upstairs. The victim raised his head, and his face was bleeding."
At one point, an inmate actually wrote down the rules of the Program—a matter-of-fact piece of paper the Voice obtained that describes an appalling atmosphere of intimidation and extortion. The handwritten document was seized in a search from the cell of a teen and is titled "The RNDC Wit It Program."
(All of these "rules" are in violation of Correction Department policies.)
"Kids can only make phone calls Monday, Wednesday, and Friday," the document reads. "They can't use the left phone, just the right."
"Whenever they call 4 [for] yard, only the team and dudes on the rocking spots can go.
"Only the team gets Boss trays, meaning they get extra food on their tray while dudes on a rocking spot get the required amount, and kids get very few portions of food.
"Whenever the house is walking out together, the kid that has the house walks in the front, followed by the team, then the dudes, then the dayroom kids all the way in the back.
"On Commissary Days, the dayroom kids have to give 20 percent of the food they buy to the team. It's called 'payin'' rent.
"The back table is the dick table."
One particularly appalling Rikers custom detailed in the reports is called the "three-man weave," after a common basketball drill. Essentially, an inmate who wants to move up in the pecking order is told to go into the bathroom.
There, he will find three other inmates waiting for him. He has to fight his way out of the bathroom against the trio. If he gets out, his status improves. If he goes down, he becomes the target for more violence.
Another method the gangs use is called "gassing." In that tactic, the team wants to beat up inmate Smith, so they order Smith to attack inmate Jones, and when the fight starts, they all jump Smith.
A copy of the clinic injury logbook from RNDC shows that 19 inmates were injured between April 16 and April 19, 2011—a period of just three days.
Extrapolated out over a year, that's more than 2,000 injuries, and that's only the ones that were actually reported. Thirteen of the 19 inmates were hurt in fights, which means that three-quarters of the injuries are related to violence.
"In RNDC, you can double those numbers. A lot go unreported," a Correction source says. "A lot of times, it's not one on one, it's 15 on 10, but they don't want to send a ton of kids to the clinic. So they call it a one on one, leave the other fighters in the unit, and lock them in. And as soon as they get out, they fight again, and the cycle continues."