When New York State raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 in 2019, all the 16 and 17-year olds at Rikers were transferred to Horizon. The same year, both institutions reported increased use of force against imprisoned people.
For the juvenile detention, DOC says the amount of incidents has doubled because the centers aren’t institutional enough. For example, “school chairs that were not connected to the ground turned into weapons.” But they also said that 17 imprisoned teenagers with behavioral or mental health issues were responsible for the majority of the incidents. Still, the DOC blames a “culture of violence” being brought over from Rikers.
At Rikers last year, even with a shrinking population, less solitary confinement, and newly installed cameras, use of force rates were up 10%. There was a policy put out in 2017 saying that guards shouldn’t hit people in the head with fists or batons unless their lives were being threatened, but that policy has yet to be enforced. Staff there have been described as “hyper-confrontational” even when just escorting a person.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says he wants to change the culture, but what does he want to change it to? Reform efforts and relocation policies like these do not and ultimately cannot fix the prison industrial complex.