New Allegations of Prisoner Abuse at Rikers Island

by

The Village Voice recently published startling new images of inmate abuse as part of the paper’s ongoing investigation into violence at New York’s Rikers Island jail.

In 2008, the paper first published allegations that Rikers guards were staging a “fight club” for the inmates, some of whom were teenagers. Reporter Graham Rayman writes that in what was known as “the Program”:

… guards were deputizing inmates, often in the teen jail, and pitting them against one another in fights as a way to keep order and extort them for phone, food, and television privileges.

The new photos show gaping wounds to inmates’ faces from knives or beatings, and the Voice reports that “several sources, including current and retired investigators, say that the practice is very much still in place.” The paper also obtained “hundreds of internal Correction Department documents” from 2009 to 2012 that show the influence gangs have on the jail, particularly in the area where the teenagers are housed.

Jail officials say they put new controls in place after “the Program” was initially exposed to prevent it from happening again, including reducing the guard-inmate ratio and assigning officers to staff rooms where inmates spent time during the day, the article said. The Corrections Department strongly denied that “the Program” was still going on, with  Spokeswoman Sharman Stein describing the allegations as “patently false.” Stein acknowledged that bullying occurs at the prison, but said, “This is not a department that is looking the other way.”

According to the Voice, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has been investigating the violence at Rikers and investigators have subpoenaed “more than a year’s worth of incident reports in the effort.”

blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS
Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

FRONTLINE   Watch FRONTLINE   About FRONTLINE   Contact FRONTLINE
Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.