63-Page Settlement Details Reforms at NYC’s Rikers Island

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Prosecutors on Wednesday filed a detailed, 63-page list of reforms New York City jail officials have agreed to institute to end violence and other problems at the Rikers Island jail complex.

The filing sets specific timelines for the implementation of a wide range of mandated reforms once a judge approves the consent decree — and adds more information about already-announced proposed fixes to the use-of-force policy among other changes.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said enforcement of the agreement will ensure "that the city lives up to its promises."

In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the reforms would help reverse decades of neglect at Rikers.

"We have a moral imperative to ensure every New Yorker in this city's care is treated with decency and respect," he said.

Under the agreement, guards will be prohibited from striking inmates while they're restrained, putting them in chokeholds, kicking them or striking them in the head unless they're in imminent danger of dying or being seriously injured, the agreement says.

Two months after a judge approves the agreement, jail investigators will start a six-month pilot program of videotaping interviews in use-of-force investigations. And nearly 2,000 video cameras should be installed throughout Rikers by next July.

Jail officials also will be required to create a computerized monitoring system that will track use-of-force cases by December 1, 2016. And 16- and 17-year-old inmates will be moved to a facility entirely off Rikers.

A court-appointed monitor, longtime corrections expert Steve J. Martin, has been named to oversee the agreement and the city's implementation of the changes, though the order says he won't be allowed to speak publicly about his findings.

Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, said in a statement he hadn't read the agreement but welcomed changes that help jail officials "get a new perspective on how we and inmates are dealt with."

The agreement — which will be posted in English and Spanish throughout the jails — follows years of litigation by lawyers for inmates injured by Rikers guards who claimed in a class-action lawsuit there was a system-wide pattern of inmate abuse. Prosecutors from Bharara's office joined that lawsuit in December after releasing their own report finding 16-, 17- and 18-year-old inmates were regularly beaten by jail guards.

New York will pay attorneys who represented the inmates $6.5 million for their time and expenses once the agreement is signed. Lawyers in the case reviewed more than two million pages of documents and deposed 57 jail officials over the course of the litigation.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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