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Felony Assaults Up By Almost 60 Percent in City Jails, Stats Show

By Eddie Small | August 19, 2014 8:46am
 As of August 10, felony assaults in the DOC were up by 58 percent compared to last year.
As of August 10, felony assaults in the DOC were up by 58 percent compared to last year.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

NEW YORK — Felony assaults are up sharply in city jails compared to last year, a spike that advocates for inmates have called surprising and indicative of issues with violence in the system.

Statistics from the NYPD show that assaults in Department of Correction facilities have gone up by almost 60 percent since last year, increasing from 181 to 286 year-to-date as of Aug. 10.

But the numbers also show that, as of Aug. 10, there had been no rapes or murders compared to 1 and 0 last year respectively.

The newly released numbers come on the heels of a string of investigations related to Rikers Island, from violence among inmates and involving guards to contraband and treatment of adolescents in the system.

And they represent the first time that the statistics were not counted with those of the 41st Precinct in the The Bronx, delighting local officials.

It was not clear what portion of the assaults represented inmate on inmate violence as opposed to assaults by corrections officers.

The NYPD and DOC did not respond to multiple requests to explain the crime statistics.

Liz Gaynes, executive director of the Osborne Association, a criminal justice advocacy group, said the spike in assaults was surprising, but she was more concerned with the general overuse of jail in New York.

“The trauma of going to jail...it’s kind of like a rite of passage for so many people in New York,” she said.

“To me, that’s a bigger assault because it stays with people. The fear they feel even when they never experience an assault to me is a bigger reason to be concerned about how many people we are locking up.”

The average daily population for the DOC was 11,827 in fiscal year 2013, down slightly from 12,287 in fiscal year 2012 and 12,790 in fiscal year 2011, according to the department.

JoAnne Page, president and CEO at The Fortune Society, a group that offers a variety of services to thousands of formerly incarcerated people each year, says the rising percentage of mentally ill inmates at Rikers Island and inexperienced correction officers may behind the increase in assaults.

"What we’re really seeing is an escalation of all kinds of violence," she said. "Correction officer on inmate, inmate on inmate, and a real lack of a core responsibility of Corrections, which is to protect the safety of the place and not to be a place where crime is incubated."

The NYPD's decision to list the crime stats for the DOC separately was lauded by Dr. Ian Amritt, chair of Bronx Community Board 2, which is served by the 41st Precinct.

"The benefits of having low crime in our precinct would result in lower taxes for property and auto and so on," he said. "And so it’s a win situation for this community with it coming off, and it also reflects truly the performance of the 41st Precinct."

However, Amritt was still troubled by the drastic rise in assaults within the DOC.

"It’s very concerning that there's an increase in the assaults within the confined jails," he said, "only because it shows that there's a breakdown, more or less, in the authority that’s supposed to prevent those from happening."