Statement on Latest Nunez Independent Federal Monitor Report on Abuse in New York City Jails

Mary Lynne Werlwas, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society, released the below statement responding to a report issued today 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 at Rikers Island and other City jails:

“The Seventh Report from the Nunez monitor should alarm us all. Staff brutality in the New York City Department of Correction is more rampant than ever, despite a historic drop in the number of people incarcerated. The report of the independent Monitor shows why: the City has failed to implement many of the reforms to which it committed nearly four years ago.

The culture of incompetence at root of this dismal progress is vividly illustrated in the Report. Jail leaders take little or no responsibility for managing use of force in their facilities. Sham facility investigations of use of force, which ignore objective evidence and simply exonerate staff, are the norm. Staff and supervisors are rarely disciplined even for gross abuse and profound correctional failures. The hard work of the many officers and civilians who seek to make the jails safer is undermined by the normalization of dysfunction and abuse.

The City must close Rikers Island. But if the Department does not implement the reforms needed to professionalize its operations now, it will not see better results and safer jails.”