Rikers Violence: Out Of Control

Shocking images back up what we've been reporting for years: New York City's jails are houses of horror

On April 3, 2011, inmate Keith Martin, 19, suffered a broken nose and a fracture of the bones around his right eye. His face was badly bruised. Two days later, the case was upgraded to a "serious injury."

Martin, who was at Rikers for graffiti, told investigators he was sleeping and suddenly, he was being beaten. He curled up in a fetal position to stave off the blows.

The motive? "Random act of violence," investigators concluded.

Rikers Island: The Correction Department claims that violence is under control, but insiders say things are actually getting worse.
Wikipedia; Cdogsimmons
Rikers Island: The Correction Department claims that violence is under control, but insiders say things are actually getting worse.
Following a fight in April 2011, adult and teen inmates file out of the jail’s barbershop. Correction sources say it’s a no-no to allow adults and teens to mix.
Following a fight in April 2011, adult and teen inmates file out of the jail’s barbershop. Correction sources say it’s a no-no to allow adults and teens to mix.

And there are the slashings and stabbings. On April 1, 2011, for example, RNDC inmate Luis Medina, 26, suffered a 15-inch laceration to the left side of his back. It was initially classified as an assault, then upgraded to a slashing the following day.

Medina gave a series of inconsistent statements and told his mother that he planned to sue the city, the report says.

On April 14, 2011, inmate Raquieth Johnson suffered long, gaping lacerations on his face while he was shackled. Johnson had been involved in seven prior fights and two prior slashings.

The man who allegedly attacked him, Michael Molinero, had been previously involved in six fights and a stabbing, the report says.

Both men are gang members.

When Johnson was interviewed in the hospital, he claimed, "I don't know who cut me."

Investigators were able to identify Molinero as Johnson's attacker through inmate interviews and by listening to his phone calls. The motive for the attack? Molinero thought Johnson was snitching, and he plotted the attack before executing it.

But even though investigators learned the name of Johnson's attacker, his refusal to cooperate made it difficult for Molinero to be prosecuted.

On April 20, 2010, inmate David Plunkett, a Crip, suffered a slash to the face from ear to mouth. The investigation revealed that he basically was surrounded by Bloods and attacked. He was punched in the face by one Blood and cut from behind. Plunkett refused to cooperate in a prosecution of his attackers.

Although those slashings were counted in the numbers, Correction sources say that in some cases, when a slashing does not require stitches or a hospital stay or when the victim refuses to identify his attacker, the incident is not counted in the slashing numbers. This is because stabbings and slashing have long been the primary public way the Correction Department gauges jail violence, even though there are many, many fights that result in serious injury.

"Violence isn't down," a Correction source says. "They play with the numbers."

For example, inmate Michayah Rogers was attacked on July 4, 2010. A captain in his unit wrote four days later that Rogers "claims he was assaulted by an unknown inmate."

At the clinic on Rikers, doctors diagnosed two puncture wounds on the right side of his chest and noted that there was "no need for sutures at present."

Even though the incident was a stabbing, it was likely not counted as such because there was no need for stitches.

When inmate Jonathan Perez was attacked on August 27, 2010, at RNDC, a Correction captain noted in the injury report that the assault "resulted in an injury to the facial area," and "injury reports were submitted."

But the clinic report states that Perez had "facial lacerations," along with a "nasal contusion" and "palm abrasion." The laceration strongly suggested a slashing, but the incident wasn't classified that way, Correction sources said.

Often, inmates don't cooperate. When inmate Gary Peterson got in a fight on April 15, 2011, he simply refused treatment and would not cooperate with investigators.

And there is a backlog in the punitive-segregation unit, which means that inmates who start fights often aren't sent there until much later. In the meantime, they continue to fight. Some inmates have amassed more than 200 days of punitive-segregation time, and yet they remain in general population.

Even though a lot of the violence emanates from gang members, Correction Commissioner Schriro has been cutting staff in the gang-intelligence unit, slashing overtime, and turning it from a unit that develops intelligence for the department and other law-enforcement agencies to one that essentially investigates inmate fights, gang-intelligence investigators say.

GI investigators say they have been ordered to stop updating the gang database and listening to the inmate phones. Schriro has also ordered that just eight gangs and 10 watch groups be tracked, when there are many more gangs on the island.

DOC spokeswoman Stein provided the Voice with a list of things that the department has done to address teen violence. There are more cameras in RNDC—481—than any other jail on Rikers, she says. There are now five officers in each of the teen-housing units. Schriro added a deputy warden specifically to monitor the teens, and a second tour commander for each shift. Academy training officers help manage the inmates. Veteran officers get extra pay if they choose to work in RNDC.

Schriro is also lobbying the Board of Corrections to eliminate a rule that requires inmates to be out of their cells for at least 14 hours a day because all that time is a factor in the fighting. She is implementing new post-release programs to help teens avoid future incarceration.

Stein said it is now easier than ever for inmates to report bullying or intimidation. The commissioner has created 32 punitive segregation beds in RNDC. And any time there's is a discrepancy in a fight or injury report, staff is immediately disciplined.

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