New York Brutality Settlement Affecting Twenty Two Prisoners, Fourteen Units Settles for $2.2 Millio
by Gary Hunter
Settlement of a 4-year-old lawsuit, between brutalized prisoners and the guards who attacked them, was achieved on February 17, 2006. Most notable was the $2.2 million in damages that will be divided between the plaintiffs and their attorneys. But a variety of other important changes were also obtained through the settlement.
Originally the suit was raised in response to a series of high-profile complaints in which guards had beaten prisoners on various units. Shawn Davis, Eric Richards and Charles Paige sustained injuries severe enough to receive coverage in several newspapers, and they became examples in investigations surrounding illegal use-of-force procedures inside various New York City jails and prisons.
Twenty-two prisoners, on fourteen units, sought monetary damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief. The terms of the settlement also required a variety of physical changes inside the different prisons as well as extensive administrative revisions in the manner that use of force incidents are documented and investigated.
Under the provisions of the settlement the defendants agreed to:
-- Install wall-mounted video cameras in areas designated by plaintiffs attorneys. Installation of these video cameras requires notification, by defendants, to plaintiffs attorneys on a semiannual basis until such time as all agreed-to locations are operable and recording (the exact locations of the cameras were sealed by court order);
-- Maintain a command level order requiring the ESU to carry hand-held cameras when conducting searches and to record searches and any related uses of force;
-- Implement a department-wide Revised Use of Force Directive;
-- DOC will create a new Investigation Division (ID) manual [and]& distribute that manual by December 31, 2006 or within twelve [months] after the Effective Date, whichever is later;
-- Investigators are required to undergo a forty-hour training program and annual fourteen-hour training follow-ups;
-- Use of medical forensics for particularly complicated use of force incidents;
-- ID investigators shall interview inmates in DOC custody who have & an interest in speaking to investigators from outside the facility [if that interest] has been indicated in writing;
-- An average of an eight-month time limit to complete investigations.
Specifically, investigative procedures are to be diagramed, updated and use of force participants photographed four times from no more than four feet away.
Use of force training is to include classroom instruction and gym training for all incoming guards. It will be followed-up at in-service reviews and reinforced monthly at roll-call.
Use of force will be tracked by location and incident. Tracking will also include any disciplinary charges and their outcome.
All points of the agreement are to be completed by November 1, 2009 at which time, if everything is satisfactorily completed, the agreement will expire.
The district court sealed the specific damage awards provided to the 22 named individual plaintiffs, which ranged from $15,000 to $575,000. The other class members will not receive monetary awards. The law firms of Sullivan and Cromwell LLP and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP received $700,000 and $750,000, respectively.
All points of the agreement require total compliance by the following units: Adolescent Reception and Detention Center, Anna M. Kross Center, Bernard B Kerick Center, Bronx House of Detention, Emergency Services Unit, George Motchan Detention Center, George R. Vierno Center, North Infirmary Command, Otis Bantam Correctional Center, Rose M. Singer Center, Transportation Division, Queens House of Detention, Vernon C. Bain Correctional Facility, and West Facility.
The changes mentioned in this article are far from exhaustive. Many fine points exist in the settlement that require strict adherence by the defendants. As part of the settlement, the defendants did not admit to any culpability.
Injustice has no rightful place either in free society or in the prison setting. All too often those hired to enforce the law abuse it, and all too often they get away with it. It is too easy and convenient to target those forgotten behind the walls. That is why PLN exists. Because everyone should be informed, everyone should be safe, and no one should be forgotten. Source: Ingles v. Toro, U.S. District Court (S.D.N.Y.), Case No. 01-CV-8279(DC). A copy of the settlement is posted on www.prisonlegalnews.org.
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Related legal case
Ingles v. Toro
|Cite||U.S. District Court (S.D.N.Y.), Case No. 01-CV-827|