N.Y. Rikers inmates' lawsuit cites frigid temps, pepper spray, beatings

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 13, 2015 4:47 PM

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Inmates at New York's Rikers Island jail complex say they were detained for several hours in a frigid gym and, when they complained, pepper-sprayed and beaten by corrections officers, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed against the city.

The $10 million lawsuit filed this month in Brooklyn Federal Court says the 20 male prisoners at Rikers' Otis Bantum Correctional Center were detained on Feb. 16 for at least three hours through dinnertime in the gym without food, water or access to restrooms after their cells would not properly lock.

When the inmates complained about the room's cold temperatures, a team of corrections officers in riot gear descended on them, dousing them with pepper spray and beating them, the lawsuit says. Prisoners sustained cuts, bruises, chipped teeth and other injuries, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit was first reported by the New York Daily News earlier Monday.

A spokesman with the city's Law Department said the legal division had not yet reviewed the complaint. The New York City Department of Correction, which runs Rikers Island, did not immediately comment.

Rikers Island, which can house as many as 15,000 inmates in 10 jails and is one of the nation's largest jail complexes, has been plagued with claims of inhumane treatment of inmates including routine beatings by guards and the excessive use of solitary confinement.

As part of a settlement last month between the city and the U.S. Justice Department over civil rights violations against teenage inmates, a federal monitor will oversee reforms at the troubled jail complex.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Eric Beech)