Rikers Guards Accused of Faking Suicide Attempt to Cover Up Beating

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Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/2011 AFP

On Monday, New York City’s Department of Investigation said it's reviewing the 129 incidents in which inmates were seriously injured by guards at Rikers Island last year, which were exposed by a New York Times report last week. They also shared another horror story from the prison. Mark Peters, the department’s commissioner, said that in October, two correction officers and a captain repeatedly kicked and punched an inmate in the head and torso while he was in his cell. The officers claimed they entered the cell — which is allowed only when there's an "immediate threat" — because the inmate was attempting suicide, and submitted photos of a noose made from pants as evidence. However, investigators found video that shows the captain leaving the room after the beating, making a noose out of the inmate's pants, and placing it on the floor. 

The Department of Investigation was already looking into violence and corruption at Rikers before the Times published its report last week. So far, eight correction officers and a captain have been charged with assaulting inmates, smuggling contraband, and trying to cover up their crimes. The three officers involved in the October incident have not been charged, though the Department of Investigation referred the case to the Bronx district attorney's office in March. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson has declined to bring a criminal case for unknown reasons.

Peters said the investigation is a "significant priority" for his agency, and they're working to determine the "scope and contours of the problem" at Rikers Island. The probe should be completed in the fall, and Peters said he expects there will be more arrests in the coming months.