Safety Issues Invigorate Scrutiny of Rikers Island

Safety concerns at Rikers Island, an aging maximum-security prison in New York, are not new. The facility is now under federal supervision, and Mayor Bill DeBlasio promised to close it entirely. However, now that the mayor’s office is instead opening new sections of Rikers Island, prisoners’ rights advocates and Democrats are objecting on the grounds that the prison is not safe for inmates.

When a person is incarcerated, the prison that takes custody of that person has a duty of care. Simply put, the prison must ensure that inmates are not injured or sickened because of negligence, a failure to maintain a safe physical structure, or the actions of prison staff. For years, Riker’s Island has had an abysmal record in all three areas, contributing to numerous injuries and failing to protect prisoners from themselves and others.

Because of this, inmates and their families may have grounds to seek compensation for the prison’s negligence. For example, the federal supervisor recently criticized the prison’s staff training because guards failed to adequately watch a prisoner who then attempted suicide. If that prisoner had died, his family could sue because the staff failed to follow procedures that call for observation of inmates to prevent suicide attempts. The procedures would establish a standard of care, and the failure to meet that standard would constitute negligence.

As the debate over Rikers Island’s future continues, more inmates, former inmates, and inmates’ families will likely pursue legal action against the prison. This article explores the prison’s duties in greater detail. 

Injured Rikers Island inmates deserve compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC