Department of Justice Plans to Sue New York City Over Conditions at Rikers Island

Following months of investigations, the Department of Justice is planning to sue New York City over deplorable conditions at the city’s correctional facility, Rikers Island, reports The New York Times.

Yesterday afternoon, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the lawsuit. “We are beginning to unwind the decades of neglect that have led to unacceptable levels of violence on Rikers Island,” said Marti Adams, spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Bharara’s office investigated the facility for more than two years, finding that the guards exercised violent behavior and used solitary confinement excessively. Earlier this year, investigators demanded that the facility change their practices. However, no changes were made.

“While the United States had hoped to reach a speedy resolution with the city on these critical issues, thus far insufficient progress has been made,” Bharara’s office said.

After filing the lawsuit, Bharara asked the Manhattan federal judge for permission to join Nunez v. City of New York, an existing case that is pending against the mistreatment of inmates.

Rikers faced a lot of criticism earlier this year after two mentally ill inmates died from subpar living conditions. Jerome Murdough died after being left in solitary confinement and the cell he was in reached temperatures of more than 100 degrees. Bradley Ballard, another inmate who suffered from schizophrenia, died after being denied his medication and consequently mutilating himself. 

De Blasio visited Rikers Island earlier this week, where he reported that they have ceased the use of solitary confinement for adolescent inmates.

“Given the longstanding sad state of affairs at Rikers Island, our impatience is more than understandable,” Bharara said. “As I’ve said before, one way or another, we will get enduring and enforceable reform at Rikers Island.”