New York City's Rikers Island jail routinely violates rights of teen inmates: DOJ
Woman's hands in jail (Shutterstock)

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday a multi-year investigation of New York City's Rikers Island jail has found a pattern of conduct that violates the constitutional rights of adolescent male inmates.

The findings, which focused on the use of force by jail guards, solitary confinement and violence at the city's largest detention facility, recommended that New York begin housing teenage inmates elsewhere.

"For adolescents, Rikers Island is a broken institution. It is a place where brute force is the first impulse rather than the last resort; where verbal insults are repaid with physical injuries; where beatings are routine while accountability is rare; and where a culture of violence endures even while a code of silence prevails," said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a joint statement with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

In a news conference, Bharara said his office had not yet launched any legal action in connection with the report, but he would not rule out possible charges in the future.

In its report to the City of New York, the U.S. Attorney's Office said correction officers at the sprawling jail complex too often resort to blows to the heads or faces of young inmates. On any given day in 2013, up to 25 percent of adolescent inmates were in solitary confinement, which sometimes lasted for months at a time, it said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jim Loney)

[Hands in jail via Shutterstock]