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Class Action Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Rikers Island Prisoners

CONTACT: David Rankin, 212-277-5825

Robert Rickner, 212-300-6506

Beldock Levine & Hoffman, LLP, Rickner PLLC, and the Law Office of Christopher H. Fitzgerald announce the filing of a class action lawsuit against the City of New York for their violation of the rights of individuals housed at Rikers Island.

Even Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi recently admitted that Rikers is an absolute “humanitarian crisis.” He confirmed reports that “the inmates are in control” of entire sections of the jails and “there were times when no one was on posts so the incarcerated people are there by themselves.” According to Schiraldi, the reason for these shocking conditions is that “we [the DOC] don’t have enough staff.”

Lead Plaintiff Jerelle Dunn proclaimed: “It is unfortunate that the conditions on Rikers Island, a New York City jail, mimic those that we have read about in Guantánamo Bay. During my month of incarceration, I was stripped of my constitutional rights and forced to live in the most inhumane conditions.”

“Rikers should be closed down. It's no place for a human being. Not even animals should be locked in a cage and ignored,” said Samuel Semple, one of the lawsuit’s lead plaintiffs.

“If we are going to have jails, they must be safe. People are living under horrific conditions on the island. It is unacceptable and they need to be apologized to.” David B. Rankin, partner at Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP. “It’s mind blowing, staffing assignments are made on index cards, in 2021!”

“It’s hard to imagine the conditions these people are living under, it is time for the people who have endured such cruel and unusual punishment be compensated for their suffering.” said Jonathan C. Moore, partner at Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP, the firm who represented Eric Garner, members of the Exonerated 5, and co-counseled Floyd, the stop-and-frisk litigation. Mr. Moore was lead counsel on the 2004 Republican National Convention class action, MacNamara, et al., v. City of New York, et al..

“Dozens of human beings stuffed into filthy, bug-infested cages with no working toilet, deprived of adequate water, food, and essential medication, and forced to sleep sitting down on hard metal benches – these are the unjustifiable conditions on Rikers Island.” Deema Azizi, Associate at Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP. “In a civilized society, these conditions are inexcusable.”

“The City of New York and Mayor de Blasio have known that Riker's Island has been plagued by staffing problems and mismanagement for years but did nothing, and now thousands of people are needlessly suffering in inhumane conditions.” Rob Rickner, founder of Rickner PLLC. “This is the inevitable result of years of neglect.”

“The City has long taken the position that more guards mean safer jails, but this has never been the case,” said Stephanie Panousieris, associate at Rickner PLLC. “Instead of properly training guards or holding staff accountable for wrongdoing and absenteeism, or simply taking minimal efforts to keeps conditions on the Island habitable, the City continues to ignore the root causes of Rikers’ unconstitutionality—severe mismanagement and poor leadership at every level.”

"Eight years ago, the current mayor was elected on the purported promise of reforming law enforcement. While this administration’s failure to enact meaningful police reform is well documented, few realize its dereliction in appointing competent leadership to the DOC. This failure, coupled with the systemic efforts to set bail on the poorest among us, has inevitably led to the atrocity that is Rikers Island today." Christopher Fitzgerald

"For years as a former Public Defender and Criminal Defense Attorney, I have personally seen the pain and suffering that the neglectful deploarable conditions have caused. This suit has to be filed because enough is enough." Masai I. Lord.

A copy of the complaint can be found below:

Download PDF • 791KB


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