The inhumane living conditions on Rikers Island have been in the media recently, sparking discussion on prison reform. Images of Rikers Island inmates living in deplorable conditions have shocked many New Yorkers. Photos depict an unresponsive inmate needing medical attention, inmates locked in makeshift cell showers, and inmates covered in feces.
Rikers Island inmates have constitutional rights. It’s important to understand those rights and ensure they’re respected. Suppose you or your loved one have been injured due to inhumane living conditions on Rikers Island or another correctional facility. In that case, it’s crucial that you discuss your case with an attorney. Your civil rights continue regardless of imprisonment, and you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Michael LoGiudice, LLP, to learn more about your legal rights.
Rikers Island Prison Has a History of Inhumane Living Conditions for Inmates
Rikers Island has a long history of failing to protect inmates and allowing them to live in deplorable, inhumane conditions. The New York City comptroller recently reiterated that the Rikers Island jail complex should be removed from New York City’s control and placed under Federal receivership. More deaths at Rikers Island have occurred in recent years, seemingly because of inhumane living conditions.
Images have surfaced showing inmates living in squalor and dangerous conditions for their health. Critics of the managers of Rikers Island have stated that the inhumane conditions are due to entrenched problems and are not short-term issues. The prison has been chronically understaffed and mismanaged, leading to dangerous and deadly inhumane conditions. Inhumane conditions at Rikers Island include the following:
- Seemingly nonexistent COVID-19 virus prevention measures
- Dozens of inmates injured in inmate-on-inmate assaults
- Increased detainee deaths and suicides since the beginning of 2021
- Inmates complaining of skipped mealtimes against their will
- Cellblocks remain unguarded for stretches of time
- Lack of access to sanitary products and showers
- Severe overcrowding exposes inmates to viruses and unsanitary conditions
- No accessible bathrooms
- No accessible beds
- Inmates forced to sleep next to feces
- Inmates defecating in their clothes
Prohibition Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment
The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution protects against cruel and unusual punishment. When this amendment was initially written, it was intended to prevent extreme forms of death and torture of prison inmates. Over time, courts have interpreted the amendment to prohibit inhumane treatment contrary to an inmate’s human dignity, such as inhumane living conditions.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits inhumane living conditions, including inadequate toilet facilities and rodent infestations. Assault by correctional officers that is unjustified and results in an inmate’s injuries could also be an example of prohibited cruel and unusual punishment.
Inmate Health Care Rights
All inmates in Rikers Island have a right to receive adequate medical care. Rikers Island has a history of allowing inhumane conditions to develop for prisoners without adequate medical attention. Inmates are entitled to medical treatment for serious medical needs, including physical and mental health conditions.
When prison officials know of a serious medical condition and do nothing or prevent a prisoner from realizing he or she has a serious medical condition, they can be held liable through a civil rights lawsuit. When inmates with mental health conditions aren’t given proper medical attention, they may be unable to keep themselves and their cells in a sanitary condition, potentially causing additional physical health conditions.
Inmates Are Entitled to Due Process
Inmates are entitled to due process under the constitution. When prisoners live in inhumane conditions, the rights to due process become extremely important. Due process rights allow inmates access to the court system to file a complaint about the treatment or conditions they are receiving in prison. Rikers Island officials cannot block, bar, or threaten inmates who want to file complaints about their conditions. They can’t hide or try to manipulate records to prevent prison complaints from being made.
When prisoners undergo a disciplinary process, they are entitled to due process. For example, they must receive notice from prison officials of the alleged infraction. They have a right to view any evidence prison officials have against them. Inmates may be able to call witnesses on their behalf and present evidence in their defense. Prisoners are also entitled to due process during appeals and access to parole boards.
Inmate Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects inmates with medical or mental health conditions. Correctional facilities, including Rikers Island, must provide reasonable accommodations for prisoners and give them access to medical treatment. Rikers Island is chronically understaffed, so many inmates with medical disabilities cannot receive the basic treatment they need and meet their medical needs daily.
Pursuing a Civil Rights Claim Against Rikers Island for Inhumane Conditions
Regardless of why a person has been incarcerated at Rikers Island, there is no excuse for the state of New York to take that person’s right to live in humane conditions away from them. If inhumane conditions at Rikers Island have injured you or your loved one, you may have a right to file a lawsuit against the state of New York for the deplorable conditions that caused your loved one’s injuries.
While we pursue more legislative action from the mayor of New York City and the governor, the immediate answer could be to pursue damages in a civil courtroom through a lawsuit against the prison. Inmates have a right to pursue damages for violations of their constitutional rights and rights under the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and more.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Rikers Island Attorney
Attorney Michael LoGiudice, LLP has a proven track record of fighting against the inhumane conditions at Rikers Island. Whether you are currently incarcerated in Rikers Island or you were incarcerated, it’s worth taking the time to discuss your case with an experienced attorney. You only have a limited time to pursue financial damages for your injuries. Contact Michael LoGiudice, LLP, today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about your legal rights.