Top Rikers Island Officials Caught Distorting Data On Violence

September 22, 2014 | Marina Galperina

If you needed proof that New York’s jail system is rotten to the core, the New York Times has just obtained a confidential report which reveals edits made to a Rikers Island audit back in 2011. It proves that, contrary to the reports at the time, violence in the prison hadn’t actually decreased. Instead, data was manipulated, tracks were covered up and corrupt officials were promoted. The investigation “underscores the pervasive dysfunction of the city’s Correction Department.”

Last month, the United States Attorney’s Office in Manhattan detailed the “culture of violence” and institutionalized abuse at Rikers Island. Though jail officials are now required to log and disclose assaults, suicides and their reprehensible solitary confinement practices, there are plenty of reasons not to trust them.

In April 2011, warden William Clemons (now chief of Department of Correction) and deputy warden Turhan Gumusdere (now lead warden of the largest jail at Rikers) were praised when recorded crime fell by two-thirds. But according to the edits in the audit, the fights, stabbings and injuries were routinely underreported. These officials’ specific failings were erased from the report by Dora B. Schriro, the commissioner at the time, including the fact that Clemons and Gumusdere “abdicated responsibility for the facility’s reporting of inmate fights and failed to supervise, manage, or oversee the facility’s reporting of violence statistics, statistics that RNDC was obligated to report pursuant to department policy.”

During this time, there were 375 fights that should have been logged but weren’t. In fact, Gumusdere “told investigators that he had difficulty understanding the incident reports and rarely reviewed them” and instead, passed them on to his “incompetent” subordinates.

This is just one example of what was deleted from the audit, and was resubmitted to the United States Attorney’s Office as part of an inquiry into civil rights violations at the notorious jail:

If Warden Clemmons and Deputy Warden Gumusdere routinely reviewed video and/or source documents involving uses of force, serious injury to inmate incidents, and/or inmate fights and assaults, it defies logic to think that they could have concluded that the number of fights RNDC reported during these months was accurate…

In light of the new findings, as guards go unpunished for assaulting and killing inmates and internal controversies seem to have no end, it is fair to conclude that an independent inquiry is urgently necessary and a lot of people need to be demoted, fired and/or charged. (Image: @sheriffaj)