Legal Aid Society Statement on Latest Nunez Independent Monitor Report on Abuse in New York City Jails

PHOTO: MARK LENNIHAN | AP

Mary Lynne Werlwas, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society, released the below statement today responding to a report from Steve J. Martin, independent Federal Court-appointed Monitor in Nunez v. City of New York et. al., concerning misuse of force in New York City jails. The independent Monitor was appointed by the Court after Legal Aid, private firms and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York settled a lawsuit against the City demanding that the Department of Correction meaningfully address the scourge of excessive force that has long been entrenched in Rikers Island and other City jails.

“Three years ago, the City committed to faithfully and fully investigate brutality by corrections staff against people held in our City jails, and stop relying on sham investigations to exonerate gross staff misconduct. The report of the Nunez Monitor shows the City has utterly failed. Investigations are biased, ignore clear evidence of staff wrongdoing and take years to complete. Officers get away with the same boilerplate excuses; supervisors tasked with investigations sign off on bogus accounts of egregious behavior; and the DOC Investigation Division has neither the staff nor experience to conduct professional investigations in any reasonable time. The hard work of the many correction officers who seek to make the jails safer and more humane is undermined by this culture of impunity. Meanwhile, the use of force practices the City committed to reform remain entrenched, with use of force rates worse than at any time since the Nunez commitments were made.

The report also raises alarms for the 16 and 17 year-olds moved off Rikers under “Raise the Age,” since the City has chosen to rely on DOC staff in the new facility. In the first six months of 2018, DOC staff used more force against these children than ever before, increasing the level of violence in the build up to this move. Raise the Age was not intended to move this unsafe and unstable operation to a new building, but rather to adopt a developmentally appropriate, rehabilitative approach for these children. The City should intervene swiftly to ensure that DOC use of force practices are not replicated in the new facility.”

Read the full report (PDF).