NY Daily News: Rikers Island ‘box’ counts as ‘torture’ for jail inmates: defense attorneys

‘The interviews expose a systemic practice that is unquestionably inhumane,’ concludes the report by The Bronx Defenders. Of the 59 inmates interviewed, some were as young as 16 — and their median age was 20.

The “horrific conditions” endured by inmates in solitary confinement at Rikers Island are exposed in a report released Thursday by a group of defense lawyers. The report by The Bronx Defenders details the experiences of 59 inmates, some as young as 16, who have served time in the East River jail’s “box.”

“The interviews expose a systemic practice that is unquestionably inhumane, raises serious Eighth Amendment issues and deserves the label torture,” the group said in a statement.

Most of the inmates interviewed spent 30 to 90 days in solitary confinement for jailhouse infractions, including fighting with other inmates or correction officers. One 18-year-old inmate, only identified as Michael, served 1,000 days in the box.

The report comes a day after the mother of Bradley Ballard, 39, an inmate who died in solitary confinement at Rikers in 2013, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New York City.

The suit charges that Ballard, who suffered from diabetes and schizophrenia, was denied food, water, medication and treatment. His death was ruled a homicide.

The most disturbing revelation in The Bronx Defenders’ report: the young ages of most of the inmates who wind up in solitary confinement. “Twenty of the clients interviewed (37%) are teenagers,” the report said. “The median age of all 59 clients was 20. “Despite the fact that many of the clients interviewed for the project were young enough to be in high school, not one of them was able to participate in a group educational program.”

The report notes an American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry study showing juvenile offenders suffered “depression, anxiety, psychosis” due to being place in solitary confinement. “At least 16 of the clients interviewed experienced suicidal thoughts, and at least five clients attempted to commit suicide,” the reports said.

A 17-year-old female inmate, Shyla, interviewed for the report recounted nearly dying from a severe asthma attack while in the box. She claimed a correction officer accused her of faking the medical emergency.

“I had to find my pump before I died in my cell. I had to look for it,” Shyla said. “I didn’t know where it was. I could have died.”

The report makes a series of recommendations to the Department of Correction, including restricting the duration of solitary confinement and prohibiting its use for inmates younger than 25 years old.

See full article here.