Rare video footage from inside New York City's Rikers Island jail – which has been blasted by federal investigators for its abuse of inmates and sued by the Justice Department – shows a teenager apparently being slammed to the ground, while handcuffed, by a corrections officer and being beaten by a gang.
The footage was obtained by The New Yorker, which in October wrote an exposé on the conditions faced by Kalief Browder, who waited at the jail for three years to face a long-delayed trial for allegedly stealing a backpack. (The case against him was dismissed.)
In the first portion of the clip, a corrections officer is seen handcuffing Browder through his cell door so he can be taken to the showers. When Browder emerges from the cell, he and the officer seem to exchange words. Then, the officer pushes him repeatedly and eventually slams him onto the floor.
As Browder told the New Yorker after seeing the video for the first time:
Browder was being held in an area of the prison that was under the heavy influence of a gang, The New Yorker reported. A gang leader allegedly spit on him, and Browder punched him in the face. The situation devolved into a mass beating on the then-17-year-old.
"He decided that he needed to retaliate," Jennifer Gonnerman wrote in The New Yorker. "If he had not, he said, it would have 'meant they could keep spitting in my face. I wasn’t going to have that.'”
A New York City Department of Correction spokesperson said the officer involved in the first incident is being re-trained.
“The Commissioner is very troubled by what he saw on this 2012 video. He and Mayor de Blasio have already adopted a 14-point anti-violence initiative to change the culture at DOC, and changes to the DOC’s Use of Force policy are already under way," the spokesperson said. "Training curricula for officers will be revised to reflect these changes. The Department is re-training the officer involved.”
Thumbnail image from the NYC DOC via The New Yorker
Tom Namako is the deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tom Namako at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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