In the face of a lawsuit over systemic civil rights violations against teenage inmates, a federal monitor will oversee sweeping reforms at New York’s Rikers Island Jail complex as part of a settlement between the city and the U.S. Justice Department, according to Reuters.
The decision comes after former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for New York’s southern district, joined a class action suit in December against the city after an investigation into the treatment of teenage male inmates, writes the news outlet.
New York City officials have tentatively agreed to sweeping reforms that would remake Rikers Island, including the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the jail complex, explicit prohibitions against guards’ striking prisoners in the head and even the introduction of body cameras worn by guards.
Other reforms city officials are poised to endorse include the development of a computerized system to better track the use of force by correction officers, the implementation of an early warning program to flag guards who use force against inmates three or more times in six months, injuring at least one of them, and the installation of 8,000 new surveillance cameras throughout the jail complex.
The measures are part of a far-reaching legal settlement that has been largely agreed upon, after months of negotiation, by lawyers for the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, as well as the Legal Aid Society and a group of private lawyers who in 2011 filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, which Mr. Bharara’s office joined in December, according to people who have been briefed on the talks.
The settlement comes amid stories about two men, Kalief Browder and Carlos Montero, who spent years at the complex awaiting trial. Montero, 24, of Manhattan, was arrested in 2008 after a robbery and is still awaiting a trial. Browder, 23, who was jailed at the complex for three years as a teen without ever being convicted, died earlier this month of an apparent suicide.
The Times says the deal is not final and that certain remaining disputes could impede the agreement. We hope the deal is approved and the much-needed reforms are enacted.