8/24/14

Picking up the Tab for DOC

The New York City Comptroller' office reports that, as a result of the rising tide of violence at Rikers Island, personal-injury claims against the New York City Department of Correction have more than doubled in the last 5 years.

Comptroller Scott Stringer said he released the report to stress the urgency of the need to reform Rikers.

His report links the 114% rise in claims against the city, most filed by inmates, to DOC's treatment of the mentally ill and its use of solitary confinement. From FY 2009 to FY 2014, claims at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center, the city's biggest solitary confinement unit, jumped by 174%.

The report, released as the City Council called for more DOC statistics on solitary confinement, is just the latest addition to the growing body of evidence that the 12,000-inmate Rikers Island, the country's second-largest jail complex, is a disturbingly violent place.

Stringer's claims analysis is part of the city's new ClaimStat program, which studies claims against the city in an effort to curb the payout of taxpayer dollars in damage awards and settlements.

During the 5-year period Stringer's office reviewed, city payouts for settlements and judgments rose 34%, with 2,245 personal injury claims in FY 2014 compared to 1,047 claims in 2009.

Last month, The New York Times reported the results of its investigation documenting assaults by correction officers on inmates of all ages, with the mentally ill taking the brunt of the violence.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in New York's Southern District, has faulted DOC for its excessive use of force and solitary confinement -- with adolescent male inmates spending months at a stretch in solitary.

Stringer advocates keeping adolescents out of Rikers altogether.

Commissioner Joseph Ponte, the deBlasio appointee who took over this year at DOC, has announced a partnership with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and will place more surveillance cameras throughout the jail system.

The article from the New York Times.

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