Claims and settlements against the Department of Correction have increased greatly since 2014, with Rikers Island containing eight facilities in the top 10 of those receiving the most claims.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a new report on Wednesday detailing the volume of claims and judgments against the DOC, and it indicated a worsening trend, particularly at Rikers Island.
“Eighteen months ago, my office showed that claims and settlements were skyrocketing at Rikers, and today, we’ve found that these trends have significantly worsened. We cannot accept these increases as inevitable — we need to reduce claims filed against the city and take action to ensure a safe environment for all,” Stringer was quoted in the report.
Rikers’ North Infirmary Command saw a 170 percent rise in claims between 2014 and 2015, the comptroller’s report stated, adding that the Anna M. Kross Center on the island received the most claims for the seventh year in a row, with 593.
“We have a humanitarian crisis on our hands at Rikers that is hurting both inmates and corrections officers, and we have an obligation as a city to confront suffering and violence in our jails,” Stringer said.
Overall in 2015, 2,846 claims were filed against the DOC, which is an increase of 27 percent from 2014.
“Reducing violence in our city jails must be a top priority. We stand ready to work with the Department of Correction to leverage this data in real time to protect inmates, guards and taxpayer dollars,” Stringer said.
In response to the report, a spokeswoman from the mayor's office, citing a 23 percent reduction in serious uses of force and 11 percent reduction in serious assaults on staff from 2014 to 2015, said it was "clear that [Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte] is taking aggressive steps to keep our inmates and officers safe. And from expanding officer training to announcing a new Use of Force policy to safely curtailing solitary confinement, we are putting clear reforms in place to address violence and improve inmate outcomes on Rikers."
This report is not the first time Stringer has been critical of Rikers. In December, he was quoted in a New York Daily News article saying that the facility could be shut down as the city finds other places to house its jail population.
Officials should “plan for the day when Rikers Island can be safely and responsibly closed," Stringer said in the Daily News. “We need to create a system that is a national model, rather than an urban shame.”