A two-year investigation of minors held on Rikers Island conducted by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office has revealed that “a deep-seated culture of violence" and an environment in which Department of Correction staff use beatings and intimidations to "control the adolescent population and punish disorderly or disrespectful behavior.”

"Most of these young men are pre-trial detainees who are innocent until proven guilty," Bharara said in an unusually strong-worded statement. "But whether they are pre-trial or convicted, they are entitled to be detained safely and in accordance with their Constitutional rights - not consigned to a corrections crucible that seems more inspired by Lord of the Flies than any legitimate philosophy of humane detention."

The report [PDF] found that both 2012 and 2013 saw roughly 1,200 incidents in which Correction officers used force against young inmates. In 2012, there were 795 inmate-on-inmate fights reported in the juvenile centers at Rikers. In 2013, that number rose to 845.

From April 2012 to April 2013 alone, 16 and 17-year-old inmates at Rikers sustained 754 visible injuries. Correction officers often used "headshots"—blows to the head—to subdue juveniles, and often "attempt to justify use of force by yelling 'stop resisting' even when the adolescent has been completely subdued or was never resisting in the first place," the report states.

Inmates who refuse to "hold it down," the phrase used for declining to report abuse to authorities, are beaten and disciplined. Many of the beatings occur away from surveillance cameras.

Here are two narratives that the report calls "representative" of what is going on in the juvenile units on Rikers.

During an interview with investigators the day following the incident, Inmate A provided the following detailed account: After leaving the school area to go to lunch, he set off the magnometer and a Captain told him to empty his pockets. He and the Captain had a heated argument and the Captain tossed Inmate A’s chips into the garbage. Inmate A called the Captain a “bitch,” and the Captain responded by saying, “all right, wait until you come back up.”

Another correction officer, who was also present, warned him to “watch when you come back.” When Inmate A returned from lunch, the correction officer instructed him to wait at the security gate while the other inmates entered the classrooms. The officer asked the Captain what he and two other officers should do with Inmate A, and the Captain directed him to mace Inmate A, which he did. The officer then punched Inmate A on the right side of his face.

After this initial blow, this same officer and the two other officers punched Inmate A approximately ten times in the face and ribs. When Inmate A fell to the ground, the officers began kicking him, and one of the kicks to the inmate’s face cut his lip.

During his interview with investigators, Inmate G reported that he walked into the pantry area in RNDC 3 Central North to get some water, and an officer told him he could not have any water because he was “a snitch.” According to Inmate G, the officer was under the false impression that Inmate G had previously reported that the officer had been involved in another use of force incident. The officer grabbed Inmate G around the waist and threw him out of the pantry, according to notes of the investigator who reviewed the video of the incident. Inmate G reported that a second officer then grabbed him by the waist, threw him toward a supply closet, and said: “Oh what you doing? You must want to get fucked up today? You know who I am?”

Several minutes later, Inmate G had another confrontation in the vestibule area with both
officers. Inmate G told investigators that the two officers tried to restrain his arms, and
eventually forcibly took him to the ground. Inmate G stated that the second officer put his knee into Inmate G’s back, making it hard for him to breathe, and then banged his face into the floor. According to the ID report, the video revealed that Inmate G and the two officers struggled for several minutes. After Inmate G was placed in flex cuffs and a Captain arrived, the second officer stomped on Inmate G’s head, causing his chin to hit the floor and his upper front tooth to fall out.

Inmate G reported that a staff member told the first officer: “Yo, if anyone comes to you tell them this is what happened. The inmate was being aggressive, he wasn’t cooperating, and he was refusing to put his hands behind his back.” Inmate G was then taken to the clinic where he alleged he was further assaulted and pressured to prepare a false written statement about the incident, which he refused to do....Inmate G suffered a two-centimeter laceration to his chin that required sutures, lost a tooth, and sustained cracking and chipping to other teeth.

The report states that the DOJ will help the City "make system-wide changes that will safeguard the Constitutional rights of adolescents, and prevent them from continuing to suffer unnecessary harm while in City custody."

Tomorrow Gothamist will publish a story on the portion of Rikers' juvenile population that are held in punitive segregation. According to the report released today, up to 25% of all 16 and 17-year-olds are held in solitary confinement at any given time, and nearly 75% of them have been diagnosed as seriously or moderately mentally ill.