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
Correction sources provided the Voice with statistics that showed 4,435 injuries at RNDC over the past year.
Sources say jail bosses often count multiple-inmate fights as just one on one, again in order to preserve the image of a safe penal system.
This happened, for example, in September 2009, records show. In the incident, the jail reported that one inmate, Quandel Baldwin, had only been play-fighting another inmate, Maruquis Carter.
Investigators interviewed other inmates and determined it was a lot worse than the jail claimed. "This writer reviewed videotape of incident, and the video clearly shows a multiple-inmate fight," the case investigator wrote.
It wasn't about play-fighting, the investigators learned. In fact, one of the inmates wanted to make a name for himself, so he attacked another, and then six other inmates jumped in and stomped the victim, the report concludes. Three of those inmates had 19 prior fights on their records.
The gang dominance of the phones in a given unit is extremely easy to figure out simply by examining who is getting the calls. For example, as a communication log printout shows, a phone number in the 718 area code received 88 calls from RNDC between October 7, 2010, and January 4, 2011.
The calls came from 18 different inmates, according to the identification numbers in the documents.
What that means, a Correction source said, is that either the number is tied to someone who smuggles drugs and other contraband into the facility, or to a friend or relative of one inmate who is forcing other inmates to give up their personal-identification numbers to him, so he can make more calls.
So it is puzzling why the Correction Department allows this situation to continue.
"The officers aren't running the phones," a Correction source says.
There's more disturbing information in the documents: One of the fundamental rules at Rikers is that teen and adult inmates should never mix, for obvious safety reasons.
But a series of extremely troubling photographs taken at RNDC on April 12, 2011, shows teen and adult inmates filing out of the barbershop together following a vicious fight that left two young inmates injured. One was seriously beaten, and the second suffered a slash wound. (The Voice obtained the photos from a Rikers source.)
Many of the adult inmates at RNDC are state prisoners sent down for court appearances, which means the teens are being allowed to mix with hardened criminals.
"They are teaching them and ordering them to fight and telling them when they get upstate, they'll take care of them," a Correction source says.
Searches in RNDC constantly turn up knives and shanks, documents show. For example, at various times throughout the past two years, investigators have seized six-inch sharpened pieces of metal, sharpened toothbrushes, Plexiglas honed to a razor point, an eight-inch sharpened fan spoke, and several knives made from metal ripped from the cell radiators.
Other photographs the Voice obtained show the appalling conditions teens must endure in RNDC: a dingy dayroom with missing floor tiles, a grimy wall with two phones and a plate for a third that was ripped out, a bathroom with filthy walls covered in graffiti and cracks, a security door with chipped paint, and worst of all, a filthy cell with missing floor tiles (sharpened tile pieces can be used as weapons), chipped paint, and a poorly painted window frame.
The Voice also obtained more than 200 reports that detail fight after fight over the past two years, the vast majority of them gang related.
Take just one report the Voice obtained, dating to July 2010. It describes tension in an RNDC unit. Two Blood gang leaders are described as "controlling the housing area and controlling the weapons and drugs" in the unit. One inmate is described as "suspected of having numerous Blood inmates meet with drug and weapon mules on visits."
A contraband delivery was two bags short, and so they decide to fight "a fair one to bring less heat on the house." The report says an unreported fight took place.
Following a fight in RNDC on March 18, 2011, inmate Pedro Olivo told investigators another inmate "ordered him to give up his commissary" and not report anything to guards. He refused. He was then threatened by another inmate and retaliated by punching that inmate repeatedly.
After another fight in RNDC on the same day, a self-described Crip named Jerell Hall claimed he fought because "RNDC is a Blood house," and he would fight until he was moved out.
After a fight on January 8, 2011, RNDC inmate Travis Lopez said he was told to sit "on the dick," and that the inmate leaders wanted him to give up his personal-identification number. He refused. He says he was then "blindsided" by several inmates.
One of those inmates was Donovan Wilson, witnesses told investigators. Wilson is six feet four inches, 290 pounds. Lopez is five feet seven inches, 130 pounds. Wilson still claimed it was Lopez's fault.
Correction officers told investigators that "Lopez has been hiding in his cell to avoid problems with the four identified perps," an investigator wrote. "Wilson is clearly visible hitting inmate Lopez and starting the assault."
The case was referred to prosecutors.