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Rikers violence leads to spike in lawsuits

"Persistent violence" in the system and at Rikers

"Persistent violence" in the system and at Rikers Island, has increased the amount the city pays out in personal injury suits, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Wednesday, March 2, 2016. This is the Rikers Island jail complex on June 20, 2014. Credit: AP / Seth Wenig

The number of personal injury claims against the New York City Department of Correction jumped 27 percent between fiscal years 2014 and 2015, a consequence of “persistent violence” in the system and at Rikers Island, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Wednesday.

The amount of money paid out in settlements and judgments relating to personal injury rose 66 percent in the same period to $13.1 million, he said.

The total number of claims last fiscal year were 2,846 and include violence between detainees and between inmates and officers as well as slip-and-fall cases, Stringer said. The figure compares with 2,245 claims the previous year and 1,047 claims in fiscal year 2009.

The comptroller reiterated his call to close the scandal-plagued Rikers Island jail complex on the East River pending “due diligence” and feasibility studies. He called Rikers “the Wild West of corrections.”

De Blasio spokeswoman Monica Klein cited a 23 percent reduction is serious uses of force and 11 percent drop reduction in serious assaults on staff as evidence of “clear reforms in place to address violence and improve inmate outcomes on Rikers.”

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is convening a commission to explore a path toward closing Rikers, an idea that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo supports. De Blasio has called the concept “noble,” but argued it would cost billions to realize.

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