The guards allegedly hired violent inmates to “punish” other, unruly detainees.
A recently-filed lawsuit claims that guards at Rikers Island hired inmates to act as violent enforcers.
The New York Daily News reports that plaintiff Jomonni Morris, 19, claims to have been victimized as parts of prison officials’ “World Tour” scheme.
A “world tour,” explains the Daily News, is a particularly brutal form of punishment for inmates who allegedly got on the wrong side of Rikers Island corrections officials. When Morris was sent on “tour,” he was frequently moved between units in the New York City jail—units in which guards knew Morris would be vulnerable to assault.
Officials allegedly allowed other members in Morris’s block to enter his cell, steal his belongings, and repeatedly attack him.
According to the New York Daily News, the “World Tour” is not a novel scheme. The lawsuit alleges that the “tour” is another derivation of “The Program,” a similar form of punishment exposed by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in 2008.
The Program—which was based out of the Robert N. Davoren Complex at Rikers—was a secretive group, spearheaded by guards who also allowed preferred prisoners violent privileges. Under the watch of corrections officials, inmate members of “The Team” were given free reign to extort and brutalize detainees who had fallen out of favor.
“The Team” was also tasked with maintaining a sort of jungle order at Rikers, doling out punishment to other unruly inmates.
The Bronx D.A. charged and convicted two corrections officers, along with seven inmates, in the death of 18-year old Christopher Robinson, who was fatally beaten for refusing to play along with “The Program.”
In his lawsuit, Morris says he is intimately acquainted with the purpose and design of the new “World Tour” because his mother had previously worked at Rikers Island.
“I learned from my son that he was put on ‘the World Tour,’ meaning inmates are being deputized by corrections officers to control certain inmates. Inmates are being moved from area to area to be preyed upon by these deputies,” Morris’s mother, Darlene Pounder, told the New York Daily News. “I found out from certain colleagues that ‘the World Tour’ is the new name for ‘the Program.’”
Morris, adds the News, is imprisoned on two counts of attempted murder. His lawsuit alleges that Rikers officials wanted to make an example of him, given that his mother formerly worked at the same facility.
After being selected for punishment, Morris was put into a violent unit wherein his belongings were stolen from his cell. Later, an inmate attacked him, breaking his jaw; the assaults culminated after Morris was jumped by another prisoner, who “slashed” him across the face with a makeshift knife, leaving a gash which required 100 stitches to seal.
Katherine Smith and Michael LaGiudice, attorneys for the Morris family, said that—despite corrections officers’ denials—New York City’s system of jails and prisons encourages officers to take justice into their own hands.
“The city has a long-standing policy of allowing—and, in fact, incentivizing—corrections officers to take the law into their own hands,” the pair said in a statement. “When corrections officers use other inmates, like their own private gang, to assault inmates on their behalf, they are perpetuating the cruelty and violence that plagues Rikers Island.
“The cycle must be stopped.”