While the number of inmates in New York City jails has dropped since 2008, the number of injury reports concerning those in custody has skyrocketed, according to a new report.
The Board of Correction recently released a report looking at serious injury reports in New York City jails and found that the population of those under Department of Correction (DOC) custody has dropped 32 percent from 2008 to 2017, but the number of both serious and non-serious reports on injuries to inmates has gone up 101 percent.
The DOC underreports the number of inmates who have been seriously injured in its jails, and consistently reports 80 percent fewer injuries than NYC Health + Hospitals’ Correctional Health Services (CHS).
In 2017, Health Services staff reported a total of 816 serious inmate injuries, but DOC reported just 158.
The DOC doesn’t even have a way to count the actual number of injuries to people in the custody of New York City jails, per the report.
“DOC’s investigation process for injuries is plagued by delays, poor accountability, and incomplete reviews,” the report reads.
On average, it took about two hours for an incarcerated person who was seriously injured to receive medical attention after a DOC supervisor was notified about the injury.
What’s causing more inmate injuries at New York City jails?
There are six classifications of injuries to inmates: use of force, use of force allegations, inmate-on-inmate incidents, self-inflicted injuries, accidents and “other.”
Between 2008 and 2017, injuries from inmate-on-inmate incidents increased 71 percent. In the same time period, injuries related to use of force by New York City jail staff (excluding allegations) grew by 260 percent. Injuries designated as caused by “other” went up 527 percent.
“This report’s findings are concerning because uses of force by the DOC staff are steadily increasing — not decreasing — even under federal monitoring, despite the decline of the jail population,” said Nicole Triplett, NYCLU policy counsel, in an email. “There does not seem to be a connection between the goals set by the DOC and the activities of officers to actually change the culture of violence.”
Serious injuries sustained within New York City jails can also have dire consequences beyond the immediate medical needs of the inmate. Injuries affect an individual’s short- and long-term physical and mental health, according to the Board of Correction, and “have a compounding negative impact on individuals’ employment, education, housing, and general reintegration into the community.”
The board, a city agency that regulates conditions of confinement, correctional health and mental health care within jails, recommends that the Department of Correction and Correctional Health Services work together to publish joint inmate injury data, and then establish new protocols, like the development of an electronic injury-tracking system, to increase accountability in the future.
“We make sure that anyone injured in our custody has access to healthcare, and we are committed to ensuring that they get it in a timely and appropriate manner,” DOC spokesperson Peter Thorne said in a statement. “This report’s findings will help DOC and CHS improve our information sharing so that we may better report, investigate and prevent serious injuries.”