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Rikers Island

Inmates at Rikers Island Face Inhumane Conditions, Officials Say

Updated 12/17 

Rikers Island continuous to be marred by systemic failures in providing the most basic services and protections to pre-trial detainees at the facility. The Russell Friedman Law Group, LLP has already filed notices of claim with New York City, the first step to holding the City accountable for its many failures. Most alarming is the denial of basic services to inmates and the deterioration of security protocols due to the City’s failure to maintain minimum staffing requirements, neglecting basic security procedures, poor supervision, and failing to hold staff accountable in a prompt manner. The Russell Friedman Law Group, LLP is working hard to hold the City accountable for its many failures and redress our client’s rights.

  1. https://nypost.com/2021/12/15/rikers-death-marks-16th-inmate-fatality-in-doc-custody-this-year/
  2. https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/hundreds-of-nyc-correction-workers-face-suspension-over-vaccine-mandate/3427664/


Rikers Island has always been surrounded by notoriety in New York City. But the coronavirus pandemic has allegedly worsened everything at the island prison due to a cascade of administrative failures. Inmates have complained of living in inhumane conditions, and city officials and groups like the Inmates’ Rights Project have agreed that there are major ongoing concerns happening there.

To name only a few of the recent troubles on Rikers Island:

  • Dozens of inmate-on-inmate assaults in August 2021 alone.
  • 12 detainee deaths – including 5 suicides – since the start of 2021.
  • Inmates have complained of skipped mealtimes without explanation.
  • Virus prevention measures seem to be nonexistent.
  • Entire cellblocks have allegedly gone unguarded for stretches of time.

In an attempt to better understand what is unfolding on Rikers Island, court-appointed federal monitors were approved in September. Preliminary reviews of the situation suggest that massive staffing shortages are at the root of most of the issues. For example, more than 3,000 of the 8,500 guards were out sick at once in the summer of 2021 and during another wave of COVID-19 diagnoses.

The sick leaves among the guards and other staff members cannot all be linked directly to coronavirus cases, though. Many workers on Rikers Island have complained of terrible employment conditions, like forced overtime and 7-day workweeks with minimal or no breaks. Unable to keep up with the demand, workers have taken to walking off the job without warning and with no indication that they will return.

Inmate Rights are Human Rights

The situation at Rikers Island is sure to erupt in civil rights lawsuits for both inmates and staff members alike.

If the situation reports are true to reality, then Rikers Island could face lawsuits over:

Inmates have been encouraged to reach out to New York civil rights law firms and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to see if they have grounds to file a lawsuit for the deplorable conditions. No matter why someone has been convicted and sentenced to incarceration, it must not be seen as an excuse for the government to take that person’s right to humanity away. Although more legislative action from New York City’s mayor and the governor is needed, the immediate answer might be found in civil courtrooms and through lawsuits filed by attorneys who stand up for inmates when no one else will.

The Russell Friedman Law Group, LLP is a New York City law firm with a strong reputation for standing up for the people’s civil liberties in and out of court. If you or your loved one has been incarcerated on Rikers Island and has since been harmed through civil rights abuses like inhumane living conditions, then please contact our firm right away. The more people we hear from regarding this ongoing situation, the stronger each case will be, and there could be the potential to form a class action. Call (855) 465-4622 to learn more.

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