In New York City, Rikers Island jail violence creates surge of personal injury claims in the past year, with preliminary data showing no signs of violent incidents abating.
Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, said most claims were the combination of violent incidents between inmates or between guards and inmates, though routine injuries and accidents have also been reportedly rising.
At the end of the 2015 fiscal year, ending June 30, there were 2,846 personal injury claims from the Rikers jail system, 27 percent more than the previous year. In 2010 there were 1,204 claims, nearly 58 percent less than last year. Preliminary data shows the trend is only growing, with the number of claims from July 1 through Feb. 25 showing a 39 percent increase compared to the same time period a year prior.
“The claims don’t lie. We obviously have a crisis of violence and an untenable situation,” said Mr. Stringer.
New York City paid 66 percent more in settlements and judgements in the 2015 fiscal year than in the previous, with $13.1 million resulting from injuries or deaths at Rikers and its other correctional facilities. Three settlements totaled more than $3 million, over $1 million each for men who died in custody while at Rikers.
The comptroller’s data report suggests the number of personal injury claims is proportionate to the rise of violent incidents. Based on the number of incidents per 1,000 inmates, data shows a 19 percent increase in violence among inmates for the 2015 fiscal year. There was a 46 percent increase in infractions from inmate assaults on jail staff and a 27 percent increase in staff enforcement against inmates.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has addressed the issue by taking active and preventative measures, including hiring more correctional officers, improving correctional staff training and reducing the number of inmates subjected to solitary confinement.
Spokeswoman for the mayor, Monica Klein, said the cases of most severe violence has decreased even though the total number of violent incidences has continued to rise.
In a statement, Klein said, “we are putting clear reforms in place to address violence and improve inmate outcomes on Rikers,” adding that the city “is taking aggressive steps to keep our inmates and officers safe.”
She also stated that between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31., 2015, reports of correctional force by staff members decreased 23 percent, while the number of inmate assaults on correctional staff fell 11 percent.