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Some Serious Inmate Injuries in NYC Rikers Jail Go Unreported Publicly

When a man was beaten In New York City's Rikers Island jail in December, guards downplayed his injuries, delaying a report and then including only minimal information. Hours after another detainee slammed the man, Jose Matias, 25, to the floor and kicked him in the head, he began having seizures, ending up spending six weeks in a coma. It was at least the second time in four months that the Department of Correction failed to document a serious injury to a person in custody, reports the New York Times. In the other case, a man being held in an intake cell was beaten so badly by another detainee that he was paralyzed from the neck down. No reports were ever filed. For all of the alarms over rising violence and disorder on Rikers Island, the two cases raise the prospect: that the levels of brutality experienced by detainees over the past year might have been even worse than was known.

The episodes raise questions about the thoroughness of an incident-reporting process that is supposed to give an accurate picture of violence inside the jails and equip policymakers with data on which to base decisions. Investigators with the correction department found in 2012 that a warden and his deputy had omitted hundreds of detainee fights from departmental statistics to make the jail seem safer than it was. A review by the Board of Correction in 2019 found that the department often underreported serious injuries of inmates, and when reports were filed important information was often missing. The injuries suffered by the two detainees in August and December occurred when Rikers Island was already under intense scrutiny for its high rates of violence, and as members of Congress were calling for the Biden administration to step in. At least 16 people died after being held in the jail system last year, many in preventable ways. On Sunday, Rikers Island recorded its first death in 2022. Tens of thousands of detainees were hurt last year in the jail system. Some 450 were injured so severely that they had to be hospitalized, nearly triple the number in 2020.

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