Four separate incidents of New York corrections officers and prison guards abusing their power with inmates have made headlines in recent months in both civil and criminal court. News of indictments, jail time and monetary compensation give hope that civil rights violations against any American is unacceptable.
Most recently a former inmate at the Genesee County Jail in upstate New York was awarded $36.6 million by a federal jury in an excessive force case. Surveillance video from the jail showed deputies from the county sheriff’s office handcuffing a man arrested for drunk driving in 2010 as he was beaten, hit with a stun gun, and pepper-sprayed. The man then had a hood placed over his face to prevent him from spitting at officers and was left restrained in a chair for two hours with no medical attention.
Closer to New York City, three guards from the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill were indicted for allegedly beating a prisoner as he was waiting for a transfer to Rikers Island in 2013. One charge against a sergeant and two guards is for what was described as brutally beating the inmate with batons, punching him repeatedly, and ripping out one of the man’s dreadlocks as a “souvenir.” He spent 17 days in the hospital with fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, and facial fractures. The guards are also charged with falsifying records, as their reports indicated the inmate was the one who attacked them. A civil suit has been filed against the guards, two more individuals and a nurse from the prison’s infirmary who allegedly would not treat the man’s injuries before he was locked in solitary confinement for the night.
In another case of an assault on an inmate, six corrections officers from Rikers Island were sentenced to jail time for the 2012 beating of a prisoner they believed stared down one of the officers. The man’s injuries included broken teeth, a fractured nose, and broken eye sockets. The indictment for a chief, a captain, and remaining officers reached 53 counts, which included gang assault and evidence tampering. False reports and witness statements claimed the inmate used a piece of metal to slash an officer. The prison sentences for the officers range from four and a half years to six and a half years.
More problems with Rikers Island were brought to light with a $5.7 million settlement for the family of an inmate who died in 2013 when he was not administered his medication and went without treatment for six days. The mentally ill prisoner was a diabetic paranoid schizophrenic and was locked in a cell for observation due to his mental condition. He was denied his diabetes medicine and developed diabetic ketoacidosis, which contributed to his death. After being ignored by guards and medical personnel at the jail, he was discovered naked in his cell and covered in bodily waste. He died soon after.
Tragic incidents such as these show the dark side of the prison system. The City’s corrections commissioner stresses a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to the abuse of inmates at Rikers Island and says they are working towards reform, despite a call by local politicians earlier this year to shut down the facility. Until the rights of all are protected, it is still a battle to be won. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a civil rights violation while incarcerated, you may be entitled to compensation for your suffering. Please contact the skilled and experienced attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to stand up for your rights and show government officials that they are not above the law.