In a white male supremacist society, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) prisoners face the compounded misery of discrimination based on their race, income, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.
They are three times more likely to be assaulted behind bars than other prisoners, and are grossly overrepresented in our prisons — particularly our disgraceful juvenile detention centers. While only 4-8% of youth identify as LGBTQ on the outside, 13-15% of prisoners in juvenile prisons are LGBTQ.
In some jails, administrators willfully place transgender inmates with the wrong gender population — for instance, placing a transgender woman in a male population. In California, transgender women in men’s prisons were found to be 13 times more likely to be assaulted than other prisoners. Continue reading
If there was ever any doubt as to whether the DOJ needed to intervene in the clusterfuck on Rikers Island, this story should lay it to rest. The New York Times reports that officials at Rikers (some of whom have since been promoted) underreported violence against juvenile inmates for months and withheld key information about what happened and who was involved from US Attorney Preet Bahrara.
It’s a complex and heartbreaking story that, as the Times writes, “underscores the pervasive dysfunction of the city’s Correction Department.” I highly recommend reading the piece and taking a look at the document comparisons they provide. After reading this, I am convinced that any hope of securing safety and humane treatment for Rikers prisoners is not going to come from NYCDOC, but will have to come from the federal government, instead. Continue reading
Two new lawsuits, filed by the relatives of deceased Rikers inmates, point to more atrocious conduct by employees of Corizon Health Services, Inc. Yet, despite their growing rap sheet, few have spoken out to demand the DOC end its contract with the troubled for-profit health care contractor.
Rikers has come under increased scrutiny since July, when the New York Times covered the violent conditions facing mentally ill inmates who are routinely brutalized by guards and neglected by Corizon’s medical personnel. The US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York also released a report detailing staggering violence by prison staff against juvenile inmates. The Department of Labor fined Corizon $71,000 for failing to protect employees from workplace violence, too.
Around that time, the family of 19-year old Rikers inmate, Andy Henriquez, sued Corizon after he died a slow and agonizing death in an isolation unit from a tear in his aorta. According to the lawsuit, when a doctor finally came to his cell just before his death, he gave Henriquez a prescription for hand cream under the wrong name.
On both sides of the prison walls, Rikers inmates’ calls for help have been met with a resounding and deadly silence. Aside from a weak bill that increases oversight for solitary while doing little-to-nothing to curb its use, there hasn’t been a single, consequential policy change on the island, or much of an effort to hold the DOC accountable for the deplorable conditions they’ve harbored there for so many years. There have been virtually no consequences for the corrections officers who routinely beat juvenile and mentally ill inmates, and no reassessment of its medical programs after Corizon employees repeatedly endangered — and in some cases, killed — the prisoners it was hired to help.
If lawmakers and the public need more disturbing, gruesome stories to understand the need for change, they should read the lawsuits filed on behalf of inmates Bradley Ballard and Carlos Mercado. Continue reading
UPDATE: Lane has been captured. What’s next?
In April, Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) inspected the Allen Oakwood Correctional Center. They found the facility overcrowded and over capacity, but still gave it ‘high marks.’
The committee noted that one of its main concerns was the conditions of confinement for “higher security inmates […] including ones in the Protective Control Unit.”
The CIIC also noted that, although there hadn’t been any escapes, there were at least two attempts in the past two years. There was also a growing number of violent incidents taking place at the prison, with an astounding 60% increase in inmate-on-staff violence from 2012-2013.
News outlets are reporting tonight that 19 year-old TJ Lane and one other inmate have escaped from Allen Oakwood. Lane was in the high security protective custody area the CIIC had warned staff about, and it seems conditions haven’t much improved in the past five months. Continue reading
New York City Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte has responded to Mayor de Blasio’s charge to improve conditions at Rikers Island by hiring private consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to draft a reform plan.
McKinsey & Co., which is “mostly known for helping Fortune 500 and other large companies” and has reportedly “little if any experience” working with prisons, has signed a 12-month, $1.7 million contract with the city.
Despite these circumstances, I suppose it’s possible McKinsey consultants can break through to Rikers guards, who “often respond to even minor slights from inmates with overwhelming force” and “have been accused of smuggling in drugs, alcohol and sometimes weapons and selling them to inmates.” Maybe they can soften correction officials who have been “described as adhering to a “powerful code of silence” when it comes to problems like brutality and corruption.”
But, as Barry Ritholtz pointed out a few years ago, there is reason to approach McKinsey’s management wisdom with caution:
McKinsey, the global consulting firm, has created dubious strategies for all manners of companies ranging from Enron to General Electric. Indeed, where ever there has been a financial disaster in the world, if you look around, somewhere in the background, McKinsey & Co. is nearby.
Yes, you read that right. Enron’s former consulting firm is going to take on reform at Rikers Island. I’m sure there’s a punchline in there somewhere. Or maybe about how McKinsey’s former executive Rajat Gupta spent two years in prison (lucky for him, not at Rikers, but a federal institution in Massachusetts) for insider trading on the board of Goldman Sachs. Continue reading
In Texas, a lawsuit filed against Corrections Corporation of America sheds another sliver of light on the notorious culture of violence at private prisons.
An unnamed prisoner alleges he and over 50 others were violently assaulted during a hazing tradition known as ‘ass to the glass,’ which involves “forcibly stripping an individual, turning him upside down and slamming his buttocks against the glass of a guard’s station.” Continue reading
The Youngstown Vindicator has more details on the August 12th inmate protest at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center — a for-profit immigrant prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America.
CCA had originally claimed it was a minor incident involving a few prisoners complaining about food and living conditions. But according to the Vindicator, which based their story off an incident report provided by CCA, this was a 14-hour peaceful protest by mostly Dominican prisoners about many more grievances. Around 250 prisoners refused to return to their cells.
The demonstration ended after militarized corrections officials began threatening violence, at which point the protesters relented, volunteering to return to their cells and speak privately with the warden at a later time. Continue reading