October 30, 2019

Statement from New York City Campaign Coordinator Brandon J. Holmes on the Release of the Eighth Nunez Independent Monitor Report

NEW YORK — The independent Federal Court-appointed Monitor — in Nunez v. City of New York et. al., concerning the use of force in New York City jails — released the eighth report documenting a continued and worsening culture of violence on Rikers; proving again, that the jails complex is beyond repair and that the Department of Corrections must have a reduced role and power in any new facilities.

Each year, these Nunez reports further expose something advocates have long known: an untenable culture of abuse exists at Rikers, harming incarcerated people on a daily basis as well as loved ones who visit them. The verification that the DOC continues to be non-compliant with key provisions of the Consent Judgment – including proper implementation of their Use of Force policy, conducting timely investigations, and enforcing meaningful & adequate discipline measures (p. 10) – is completely unprofessional, reprehensible, and unjust. According to the report, use of force rates for this monitoring period show a 98% increase since 2016 (p. 21). The Department leadership must immediately use all the tools at their disposal to hold staff accountable, including termination of staff members’ whose records demonstrate a pattern of abuse of force and power.

New Yorkers have increased knowledge — but no real transparency or increased accountability as these reports are released and no serious plans for structural changes have been implemented. Mayor de Blasio and leadership at DOC have openly said they will rely on attrition to reduce the agency’s workforce. This means they will sit and watch as more City employees work in & create hostile, traumatic environments that threaten the health and well-being of themselves, the people in their custody and their loved ones.

Survivors of Rikers – and their family members who have endured disrespect and invasive searches during visits – must be central to the conversation about jail oversight and a just transition that largely reduces the power and authority of DOC  without simply discarding thousands of Black and Brown City employees from our same communities. The stories of directly impacted people affirm why we demand and deserve a completely transformed justice system— one that does not leave anyone behind.

Mayor de Blasio and his administration must lead the charge and end this culture of violence. The #CLOSErikers campaign is working to ensure the closure of Rikers Island and a drastically smaller jails system with improved conditions. As part of our plan we continue to call for the reduced role and power of the Department of Corrections – the results of this eighth report support our demand. Brutality at the hands of jail guards continues despite a continued historic drop in the number of people incarcerated.

On the heels of a historic vote to commit to long term decarceration and begin making specific investments in community services outside of jails, this is the time to take action. The continued decline of the jail population has brought NYC to a point where 10,200 uniformed officers oversee 7,200 people in custody. This is the highest staffing ratio in any jail or prison system in the world. There is no shortage of funding, training, or staffing. The complete disorder in City jails can be attributed to the Mayor and his agency’s continued failures to hold their officers accountable.

The time for further study of Rikers is over. New York City and the DOC cannot continue to perpetuate this injustice and ignore the overwhelming evidence year after year of extreme use of force and abuse by staff and supervisors.


Led by directly impacted communities and in partnership with more than 150 organizations, the #CLOSErikers campaign fights to close the Rikers jail complex and #buildCOMMUNITIES.