The Bronx Defenders’ Statement on the Department of Justice’s Lawsuit Regarding Rikers Island

The decision by the Department of Justice to move forward with a lawsuit against New York City over the treatment of adolescents at Rikers Island sends a clear signal to the City that it has failed to propose or implement meaningful reforms. The timing of the announcement, which comes a day before the upcoming Board of Correction hearing, makes it clear that the Department of Correction’s request to establish new restrictive housing units with 17 hours of lock-in will only worsen the conditions at Rikers Island.

Over the past year, The Bronx Defenders has interviewed over 60 of its clients who have experienced solitary confinement at Rikers Island. In September, we released Voices from the Box, a report that summarizes the stories of our clients and uncovers a systemic practice that is unquestionably inhumane, raises serious Eighth Amendment issues, and deserves the label torture. It is our hope that the Department of Justice’s lawsuit will help pave the way for lasting reforms to the use of solitary confinement and to the culture of brutality at Rikers, so that all people incarcerated at Rikers–not only adolescents–can gain relief from the unacceptable conditions that have been the hallmark of Rikers Island for too many years.