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The Prison Complex

Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014, 10:00 pm

More Correctional Officers Arrested in Rikers Island Investigation

By George Lavender

The arrests of three correctional officers from Rikers Island brings the total number of correctional officers arrested as part of the wider investigation into the jail to at least 12.   "You are entering Rikers Island" Matt Green

An investigation into corruption and abuse at New York's largest jail has resulted in three more arrests. According to the New York Times, the Investigation Department has been examining what commissioner Mark Peters has described as “a pattern of lawless conduct at Rikers that must be brought under control.” Two correctional officers and a captain at Rikers Island jail complex were arrested Wednesday charged with beating an inmate and later attempting to cover it up. 

The beating occurred on Oct. 30, 2012, just after Hurricane Sandy. Tensions were high after the storm, according to a statement by the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson. Rikers was short-staffed and inmates had been locked in their cells for much longer than usual because of the storm.

At the George R. Vierno Center, one of the 10 jails at Rikers, an inmate named Gabino Genao became verbally abusive to one of the defendants, officials said. In response, the defendants went into Mr. Genao’s cell, handcuffed him from behind and led him to a vestibule, “where one of the officers allegedly threw the first punch, but missed when the inmate ducked,” Mr. Johnson said.

The officers then pushed Mr. Genao to the floor, and all three began to punch and kick him in the head, neck and torso, officials said. At one point, one of the officers grabbed a baton and hit him multiple times. He then lost consciousness.

Mr. Genao, now 27, suffered multiple contusions that officials said were consistent with the imprint of a standard-issue baton used by the Correction Department. He had been incarcerated for a parole violation. Continue reading...

According to the New York Times, the officers then allegedly filed reports that did not mention the use of the baton and were “inconsistent with both the assault of the inmate and the injuries he sustained.” 

Jail beatings rarely result in prosecution, but there are exceptions. In June last year, the Bronx district attorney’s office charged 10 jail officers and supervisors, including a former Rikers security chief, with savagely beating an inmate and then conspiring to cover up the attack. The inmate, Jahmal Lightfoot, suffered two fractured eye sockets and a broken nose. After the beating, officers then accused Mr. Lightfoot — wrongfully, according to prosecutors — of slashing one of the officers with a makeshift razor.

Rikers Island has faced increased scrutiny in recent months following a series of prisoner deaths including one who “baked to death” in an overheated cell. Mayor Bill de Blasio called those deaths “troubling.” 

George Lavender is an independent radio and print journalist based in Oakland, California. He’s a producer of “Making Contact,” a weekly half-hour radio show, and editor of The Prison Complex. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLavender.

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