Nearly two dozen prisoners at Rikers Island are suing the city, claiming they were beaten by guards in riot gear after being forced into an unheated gym for hours in mid-February, the Daily News reports. The inmates say they were among a group of 50 who jailers moved into the gym around dinnertime because doors in the Otis Bantum Correctional Center, one of the facilities on the island, wouldn't lock. The inmates said the locks broke four days earlier and the guards forced them to stay in their unlocked cells for three and a half of those. Then, on the day of the alleged brutality, guards ordered 50 of them to the freezing gym wearing only T-shirts, just as dinner was arriving in the dorm, according to the lawsuit.
They received no instructions, but were told food would be delivered soon. After several hours with no word and no grub, the group sought answers from the guards at the door. A phalanx of corrections officers in riot gear responded.
"They were throwing inmates off the bleachers," plaintiff Isiah Foster told the News. "It was unbelievably terrifying—bodies everywhere crying out in pain and agony like a bomb had gone off."
The city's Law Department told the tabloid it would look into the claims. This is far from the first time that Rikers guards have been accused of assaulting inmates—in fact, use of force by guards is at its highest in more than a decade, though island's inmate population is way down. But maybe this is to be expected when the Correction Department hires people with criminal records, mental health problems, and friends and relatives on the inside to work as Rikers guards?