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14 Jan, 2015 17:31

NYC jails register record-breaking use of force against inmates in 2014

NYC jails register record-breaking use of force against inmates in 2014

New York City jail guards used force against inmates more often than ever in 2014, on average 11 times a day. That’s despite a decline in jail population.

Correction officers reported using force 4,074 times last year, according to public records obtained by AP, which is almost 1,000 incidents more than a year before.

Statistics also show the number of inmates decreased by around 3,000 in between 2006 and 2013. The same period of time saw an increase in use-of-force cases by the same figure – 3,000.

NYC jails have been under serious scrutiny from federal prosecutors since September, when an explosive report revealed teenage inmates at the US’s second-largest jail, Rikers Island, were regularly beaten and pepper-sprayed by their guards.

READ MORE: New York City’s main youth prison ruled by ‘brute force’ - DOJ report

Record rates of the use of force showed there has “not been a commitment to date to address officer violence on Rikers Island," according to Dr. Bobby Cohen, a member of the jail oversight board, cited by AP.

Buildings of the jail at Rikers Island (Reuters / Chip East)

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the data so far.

The New York City jail guard union argues the rise is not in the number of incidents with the use of force, but rather in the guards’ grown zeal to report on the most minor cases to avoid potential lawsuits and discipline.

"If I physically touch an inmate, it's a use of force irrespective of an injury happening," said Norman Seabrook, the head of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association. "Absolutely we're saying, 'Document everything. Don't physically get into an altercation but use chemical agents. Spray them. Spray everybody you've got to spray but don't punch nobody out. Just spray whoever you've got to.'"

READ MORE: NYC sued over violence against young inmates at notorious Rikers Island jail

A jail spokesman said in a statement that they were improving staff training, expanding the investigation division and installing security cameras in an effort to decrease the number of use-of-force incidents.

Rikers Island is banning solitary confinement for inmates age 21 or younger as part of responding to the report on abusive treatment of inmates. The move, voted for Tuesday, is to be enforced by the end of January 2016.