In three instances where inmates on Rikers Island were beat to death, none of the guards responsible are facing criminal charges reports the AP. The families of victims Angel Ramirez, Clarence Mobley and Ronald Spear have all sued the prison and two have settled, but it’s proven almost impossible to charge correctional officers criminally, according to lawyers working with the cases.

The deaths were ruled as homicides by the city medical examiners office.

A federal investigation into Rikers shows one reason charges are evaded. “They found that beatings often occurred out of view of security cameras, internal investigations took months to complete, and guards falsified or otherwise failed to properly fill out use-of-force forms documenting incidents,” AP writes. It is also easy to cast doubt on the testimony of criminal inmates and guards are hesitant to report on each other.

In Ramirez’s case, while his family is still fighting over his death, the guard who hit him was disciplined by his superiors. The judge recommended two others be given 20 days leave without pay, but this has not yet been decided.

All of these cases began with minor altercations between the inmates and officers. The 60-year-old Clarence Mooney was waiting for a psych evaluation when he hit a guard with a tray. Ronald Spear was kicked in the face by a guard for unknown reasons. Ramirez was refused medication when he told guards he was hallucinating, and when he later took a swing a guard he was dragged somewhere out of the view of cameras and killed.

When the APspoke to Correctional Department spokesman Robin Campbell, he focused on new Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who has said that excessive force is “absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated on his watch.” “Ponte has begun rewriting use-of-force policy, installing more security cameras and revising the recruitment and training of guards,” Campbell said.

Rikers has been in the news frequently for their allegations of widespread abuse against prisoners. The federal investigation which helped shine light on Ramirez case found a similar case of a teen who was beaten and left in his cell to die. The New York Times conducted their own investigation into the prison and found that many of the abuses are committed against mentally ill inmates(Image: @sheriffaj)