A new report issued by a federal monitoring team assigned to keep watch over New York City’s jail system says the conditions at the city-run correction facilities are “dangerous” and “gravely concerning,” posing a “high risk of harm” to inmates and staff.
The report, filed Thursday, went as far as to question the competency of department leaders and claim only systemic changed and court-ordered relief can change the Department of Correction’s “significant deficiencies.”
The federal monitor cited staggering statistics from the past 10 months: more than 700 reported “uses of force” by staff and more than 50 slashing or stabbings, along with other security and operational failures.
The report also confirmed five deaths by suicide in 2021 of people in DOC custody — more than the previous five years combined. The federal monitor report lists a total of 12 in-custody deaths in 2021 and 51 in the last six years.
The city’s jail facilities have faced criticism for years, with calls to close the much-maligned Rikers Island complex becoming a key issue for New York City politics; but in recent weeks, the safety of inmates and staffers alike have shifted into the spotlight, with public servants, union officials and activists alike all calling for change.
The situation was even referred to as a “humanitarian crisis.”
The federal monitor report outlines several planned changes for the security of city jails, including the launch of an interim security plan and a plan to address self-harm and suicide. Other identified adjustments include changes to intake tracking, video monitoring and post-incident management.
Officials are also considering security personnel changes and additions, along with expanded criteria for department leadership roles.
In response to the report, the Legal Aid Society released the following statement, highlighting the issues addressed by the monitor:
“The latest reports from the Monitor and the City continue to make clear the deep-seated ineptitude within the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) in protecting the people in its charge. The high level of uses of force, dangerous incidents, and ongoing collapse in basic jail functions, are as gravely alarming as ever. Combined with the woefully insufficient measures the City has recently adopted, they show that the City is simply unwilling or unable to make the systemic changes to hold the staff and leadership accountable for humane and constitutional treatment of our clients. We will continue to take all necessary steps to protect our clients, defending the relief ordered by the court in this case and seeking the necessary additional relief at every opportunity.”