Supplemental Report on September 11 Detainees' Allegations of Abuse at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York
Office of the Inspector General
II. PHYSICAL AND VERBAL ABUSE
Our investigation developed evidence that approximately 16 to 20 MDC staff members, a significant number of the officers who had regular contact with the detainees, violated BOP policy by physically or verbally abusing some detainees. For the purposes of this report, we consider "physical abuse" to be the handling of the detainees in ways that physically hurt or injure them without serving any correctional purpose. Under BOP Program Statement (P.S.) 5566.05, improper handling includes instances when staff members use more force than necessary on the detainees or cause the detainees unnecessary physical pain or extreme discomfort. Similarly, we consider "verbal abuse" to be insults, coarse language, and threats to physically harm or inappropriately punish detainees, all of which violate BOP P.S. 3420.09, "Standards of Employee Conduct."
We discuss in this section the general evidence that staff members physically and verbally abused some detainees.
Most of the detainees who made allegations of abuse specifically alleged that MDC staff members slammed them into walls. Several detainees also alleged staff members slammed them into doors and the sides of the elevator that took them up to the ADMAX SHU. According to approximately ten detainees, staff members slammed them against walls on their first day at the MDC while they were in R&D. Detainees also alleged staff members sometimes slammed them into walls in the ADMAX SHU during escorts to and from attorney visits, doctor visits, or recreation, but not as frequently as in R&D. The detainees alleged that these slamming incidents occurred when they were being fully compliant with the officers and were not resisting.
For example, one detainee told us that immediately after he arrived at the MDC, staff members took him out of the van, "slammed" him against a wall, and warned him that they would break his neck if he moved. Another detainee also stated that officers repeatedly "slammed" him against the wall in R&D on the day he arrived. Another detainee stated that on his first day at the MDC, officers painfully "slammed" him back and forth against walls in the ADMAX SHU all the way to his cell. In addition, another detainee stated that he was "slammed" against the wall in the sally port and that the experience was very painful. In all of these cases, the detainees claimed that they were fully compliant with staff members' instructions.
Detainees said they were slammed into walls much more frequently before the handheld video cameras were introduced in October 2001 than after. One detainee stated staff members told him things like, "If the camera wasn't on I would have bashed your face," and "The camera is your best friend." Detainees also told us that their treatment by the staff at the MDC was worse than their treatment by officers at other institutions. Few made complaints of mistreatment by other officers outside of the MDC.
Our efforts to substantiate or refute allegations that staff members slammed detainees against walls were hindered to some extent because: (1) detainees' escorts were not videotaped until early October 2001, after many of the detainees already had arrived; (2) even after the MDC instituted the policy requiring all detainee escorts be taped, some detainees' escorts were not taped;8 and (3) a significant number of detainee videotapes were recycled or destroyed, in accordance with a regional policy directive issued in December 2001 that allowed the tapes to be re-used or destroyed after 30 days. These issues are discussed more fully below under section III (F), "Obtaining Videotapes from the MDC."
BOP policy prohibits staff members from using more force than necessary on inmates. BOP P.S. 3420.09, "Standards of Employee Conduct," states, "An employee may not use brutality, physical violence, intimidation toward inmates, or use any force beyond that which is reasonably necessary to subdue an inmate." Similarly, BOP P.S. 5566.05, "Use of Force and Application of Restraints on Inmates," authorizes staff members to use force on inmates only as a last alternative after all other reasonable efforts to resolve a situation have failed. It states that even when force is authorized, staff members must not use more force than necessary on the inmates, or cause them unnecessary physical pain or extreme discomfort. 9
We spoke with two senior BOP officials concerning slamming or bouncing inmates against the wall. One of the officials, who had oversight responsibilities for correctional operations during the relevant time period, stated that unless an inmate is combative or resisting, slamming the inmate into a wall is improper and violates the BOP's policy on "use of force." The other official, who is responsible for training new BOP officers, confirmed that slamming a compliant inmate against the wall is not an appropriate control or escort technique. Both officials stated that slamming, bouncing, and firmly pressing compliant inmates against the wall violates BOP policy.
A former MDC lieutenant, who was one of the lieutenants in charge of escorting the detainees to and from the ADMAX SHU (hereinafter "Lieutenant 1"), corroborated detainees' allegations of slamming. He stated that before the MDC began videotaping all detainee movements, which was on or about October 5, 2001, almost all of the detainees were slammed against walls, particularly in the sally port. He also stated he witnessed staff members "bounce" detainees against the wall. Lieutenant 1 explained that "slamming" a detainee against the wall was when officers shoved the detainee into the wall and held him there, and "bouncing" a detainee off the wall was when officers shoved the detainee into the wall and then quickly pulled him back. Lieutenant 1 said "pressing" a detainee against the wall was when officers used physical force to keep a detainee's chest against the wall.
Lieutenant 1 said he witnessed officers unnecessarily slam, bounce, and forcefully press detainees against the wall. Lieutenant 1 told us that some officers took detainees off transport vehicles and bounced them against the wall every time they could get away with it. Lieutenant 1 asserted the only time it would have been appropriate for an officer to press, bounce, or slam a detainee against the wall was if the detainee was aggressive, combative, or violent. However, Lieutenant 1 said he never saw a detainee act in these ways.
According to Lieutenant 1, he confronted another lieutenant who was responsible for escorting detainees (hereinafter "Lieutenant 2") after seeing Lieutenant 2 slamming detainees against the wall. Lieutenant 2 also supervised many of the officers who Lieutenant 1 witnessed slam detainees against the wall. Lieutenant 1 stated that Lieutenant 2 told him that slamming detainees against the wall was all part of being in jail and not to worry about it.
When interviewed by the OIG, Lieutenant 2 maintained that his officers did not slam detainees against the wall, but he stated that it was possible an officer could have slipped by mistake and slammed a detainee into the wall. He also stated that if the lieutenant supervising an escort was not paying "very, very close attention" and actively controlling the officers while trying to communicate with the detainee, then "anything could have happened."
Moreover, one current MDC officer implied, although did not state, in an affidavit that some staff members bounced detainees off the wall. He wrote, "There were some lieutenants like [Lieutenant 1] who would [rein] in an officer for bouncing a detainee against the wall, but there were probably other lieutenants who would let more slide."
A federal agent who served on the INS's Special Response Team that transported many detainees to the MDC said he witnessed MDC staff members briskly walk compliant detainees into walls without slowing them down before impact. During two escorts we viewed on videotape, we observed officers escort detainees down a hall at a brisk pace and ram them into a wall without slowing down before impact, just as the INS agent described.
Further, an attorney for one detainee said he observed MDC staff members slam his client against the wall. The attorney said that after his visit with his client in February 2002, MDC officers escorted his client out of the visiting room and threw him up against the wall face first. The attorney stated that the officers then removed his client's shoes and banged them against the wall right by his face, clearly intending to intimidate him. According to the attorney, this incident was not recorded by a video camera.
In our review of the videotapes, we saw staff members slam one detainee into two walls while he was being escorted from a recreation cell to a segregation cell. In another incident, we saw staff members forcefully ram a second detainee into two walls while he was being escorted from the recreation deck to a segregation cell. On several videotapes leading up to and following these incidents, we did not observe any conduct that would justify staff members using this amount of force on either of these detainees. Instead, the videotapes show that both men were compliant before and during the escorts when staff members slammed and rammed them against walls. 10
Many of the detainees also alleged that they were slammed against the wall in the sally port at the bottom of a ramp where a t-shirt was taped to the wall.11 The t-shirt, which is discussed below in greater detail under "T-Shirt with Flag and Slogan," had a picture of the U.S. flag and the phrase "These colors don't run" on it.
Image 1: The t-shirt in the sally port.
Two staff members, Lieutenant 1 and a staff member from R&D, told us they observed blood on the t-shirt. Lieutenant 1 stated some of the bloodstains looked like a couple of bloody noses smudged in a row, and other stains looked like someone with blood in his mouth spit on the t-shirt. None of the current or former staff members we interviewed said they knew how blood got on the t-shirt. Moreover, none of the INS agents who brought the detainees to the MDC recalled any of the detainees being bloody before they arrived at the sally port. While we cannot say definitively whether the blood was from the detainees, the fact that two staff members saw blood on the t-shirt where detainees were "placed" provides some evidence that detainees were slammed into the t-shirt, as many alleged.
In addition, our investigation revealed that at least one detainee likely received a bruise on his arm from being slammed into a wall.12 In his interview, the detainee said his bruise was caused by officers who repeatedly slammed him against the wall in R&D. According to Lieutenant 2, who examined the detainee when he arrived at the MDC, the detainee did not have any bruises when he entered the MDC during the evening of October 3, 2001. However, when the detainee left for court the following day, he had a large bruise on the side of his right upper arm. A videotape of the detainee's bruise showed that it was very dark, circular, and about the size of a tennis ball. Lieutenant 2 said that when he observed the bruise on the detainee's arm the next day, he concluded that the bruise was caused in the MDC, but he did not know how.
The detainee's bruise was examined by an MDC doctor on October 5, 2001, but the detainee's medical records do not indicate what caused his injury. On a videotape of his medical examination that we reviewed, the detainee told the doctor that his bruise "happened here," but the doctor did not ask how he got the bruise and instead said he only wanted to confirm which bruise he was supposed to examine.
The OIG obtained medical records for seven other detainees who alleged MDC staff members slammed them against walls. These records do not indicate that the detainees were bruised or otherwise injured from being slammed against the wall.13 It is possible that the detainees were not injured. However, if they were injured, there are several explanations for why their injuries may not have been recorded in the detainees' medical records. First, some detainees did not seek medical treatment for their bruises because they would have been required to request treatment from the same officers who they alleged injured them. Second, detainees generally received their intake medical assessments shortly after they arrived, before bruises would have developed from being slammed against the wall in R&D. Third, MDC staff members who observed the bruises did not always offer detainees the opportunity to visit medical personnel, as one detainee alleged happened when he showed a lieutenant a bruise he obtained following a "use of force" incident on April 2, 2002. Fourth, some MDC medical personnel may have failed to examine detainees' injuries or discern how they were injured, as shown on the videotape of the medical examination of the detainee who had a bruised arm.
In our interviews of MDC staff members, most of them denied detainees ever were slammed or bounced against the wall. A few staff members did state that detainees were slammed against the wall, but only when they were noncompliant.14 Almost all of the staff members we interviewed described the detainees, with the sole exception of Zacarias Moussaoui, as fully compliant and non-combative.
But many of the staff members who told us the detainees never were slammed against the wall or who said that the detainees were slammed against the wall only when they were violent, also told us the detainees never were pressed against the wall, the detainees' heads never touched the wall, or there never was a t-shirt with an American flag on it hanging in the sally port. These claims were contradicted by numerous videotapes showing that staff members routinely pressed detainees into walls, regularly instructed detainees to place their heads against walls, and directed the detainees to face the t-shirt prominently displayed for months in the sally port.
Image 2: Officers face detainee towards t-shirt with flag.
Image 3: Officers press detainees against walls.
Furthermore, nearly all of the staff members we interviewed stated that the detainees were compliant, only a few of them were argumentative, and none of them were violent or hostile.15 For example, a current lieutenant at the MDC said that when the detainees arrived they were scared and visibly afraid. He said it became apparent to him that the detainees were not terrorists.
In addition to alleging that they were slammed against walls, five detainees alleged MDC staff members used force on their heads or necks. For example, one detainee stated that when certain officers pressed him against the wall, they put a lot of pressure on the back of his head and pressed his forehead against the wall. He said whenever he moved his head away from the wall, the officers banged his head on the wall. Similarly, another detainee told us that on the day he arrived at the MDC, one officer grabbed the back of his head in the elevator, pushed his whole face against the elevator wall, and squeezed his head behind his ear as hard as he could. The detainee said, "It was very, very painful."
The two senior BOP officials we interviewed stated that pressing a compliant, non-combative inmate's head or neck against the wall is not an appropriate control technique. The official responsible for training BOP officers said it never was acceptable to touch or use force on an inmate's head or neck unless the inmate was violent and staff members were trying to defend themselves. As noted above, BOP policy prohibits staff members from using more force than necessary to control inmates, or causing them unnecessary physical pain or extreme discomfort. See BOP P.S. 3420.09 and BOP P.S. 5566.05.
Lieutenant 1 identified two officers who regularly pressed detainees' heads against the wall. He said one officer put detainees' faces against the wall and screamed at them, and the other officer frequently put his hand on the back of detainees' necks and put their heads on the wall.
When we interviewed the two officers Lieutenant 1 identified, however, both denied ever pressing detainees' heads into the wall or ever witnessing any officer touch a detainee's head or neck. One of the officers commented to us that, "there could be serious damage" if officers put detainees' heads on the wall.
Similarly, nearly all of the other current and former staff members we interviewed maintained they never saw or heard of staff members touching detainees' necks or heads, or pressing detainees' heads against walls. One former officer stated, "we don't put hands on their heads," and another former officer said officers specifically told the detainees not to place their heads against the walls.
However, several videotapes showed officers pressing detainees heads against the wall. One tape showed an officer controlling a detainee by his head and firmly pressing his head and neck against the wall until a lieutenant, noticing the video camera, slapped the officer's hand away. On another videotape, we saw an officer grab a detainee by his hair and his neck, and firmly press his head against a wall. (Image 4) This particular incident was witnessed by one of the officers who told us that he never saw any staff member touch a detainee's neck or head, or press a detainee's head to the wall.
Image 4: Officers firmly press detainee's head against the wall.
In sum, we concluded based on videotape evidence, detainees' statements, and staff members who corroborated allegations of abuse, that several MDC staff members slammed and bounced detainees into the walls when they first arrived at the MDC and sometimes in the ADMAX SHU, without justification and contrary to BOP policy. We also concluded that some staff members, contrary to their denials, inappropriately used force on detainees' necks and heads, and pressed their heads against walls.
Ten detainees alleged that while their hands were cuffed behind their backs, MDC staff members inappropriately twisted or bent their arms, hands, wrists, or fingers during escorts on the ADMAX SHU or to and from R&D, causing them pain. The detainees said staff members bent their arms up into the middle of their backs, pulled their thumbs back, twisted their fingers and wrists, and bent their wrists forward towards their arms (referred to by MDC staff members as "goosenecking").
As noted above, BOP policy prohibits staff members from using more force than necessary to control an inmate. Similarly, BOP P.S. 5566.05, "Use of Force and Application of Restraints on Inmates," authorizes staff members to use force on inmates only as a last alternative after all other reasonable efforts to resolve a situation have failed. In our interviews with two senior BOP officials, they indicated that twisting or bending hands, wrists, or fingers of compliant inmates is an inappropriate control technique. The BOP official who is responsible for training new BOP officers on restraint and escort techniques stated that staff members should not use pain compliance techniques, such as bending fingers or twisting wrists, unless the inmate is noncompliant or violent and confrontation avoidance through communication has failed. He stated that using pain compliance methods under any other circumstances would be using more force than necessary on an inmate and thus would violate BOP policy.
Two lieutenants and an officer told us that MDC staff members twisted and bent detainees' hands, wrists, and fingers. Lieutenant 1 stated that one officer always twisted detainees' hands during escorts, even when they were being compliant. He said that he had to correct this officer not to hold detainees' fingers or hands "in a manner which causes unnecessary pain." Lieutenant 2 told us he saw officers unnecessarily gooseneck detainees' wrists and said he had to correct them. In addition, an R&D staff member told us he saw officers control detainees by bending their wrists down in "modified gooseneck holds." He stated that these holds were "modified" because the officers were not bending detainees' wrists in order to hurt them, unlike the gooseneck hold. However, he said that the modified gooseneck holds made the detainees uncomfortable and caused some detainees to complain that they were in pain.
Other current and former MDC staff members we interviewed told us different things with respect to whether they or other officers bent detainees' thumbs and goosenecked their wrists. Some said officers never were supposed to hold or bend detainees' thumbs, and they never saw or heard of staff members bending detainees' thumbs or goosenecking their wrists. Others said it was appropriate to bend detainees' thumbs, gooseneck their wrists, or use pain compliance methods if the detainees were being noncompliant or combative, although many of them said the detainees never were noncompliant or combative. One lieutenant told us that it was possible that officers intentionally twisted the injured hand of one detainee who argued with the officers, "just because it's human nature."
Moreover, contrary to some officers' denials that staff members ever bent detainees' hands, wrists, or fingers, in our review of videotapes we observed several instances when MDC staff members bent compliant detainees' arms, hands, wrists, and fingers for no apparent reason. For example, we saw a staff member gratuitously gooseneck a detainee's wrist during a routine escort, even though the detainee was fully cooperative and compliant. (Image 5)
Image 5: Officer uses thumb to gooseneck compliant detainee's wrist.
Based on the consistency in the detainees' allegations, witnesses' observations, and videotape evidence, we believe some staff members inappropriately twisted and bent detainees' arms, hands, wrists, and fingers, and caused them unnecessary physical pain, in violation of BOP P.S. 5566.06.
Several detainees alleged that MDC staff members carried them, pulled their handcuffs or waist chains, dragged them, or lifted them off the ground by their restraints and arms. Some detainees also alleged staff members pulled their arms up while their hands were cuffed behind their back, which exerted great pressure on their handcuffs and hurt their wrists. Many of these allegations related to the detainees' first day at the MDC.
For example, one detainee stated staff members dragged him along the ground from R&D to his cell on the ADMAX SHU the day he arrived at the MDC. Similarly, a second detainee alleged MDC staff members pulled him by his arms from R&D to the ADMAX SHU. Furthermore, a third detainee told us that staff members linked their arms through his cuffed elbows to lift him off the ground every time they moved him for the first three days he was at the MDC, even though he was compliant. Another detainee said that staff members lifted him off the floor by his chains and ran with him, even though he was fully restrained and compliant.
According to the senior BOP official responsible for training BOP officers on restraint and escort procedures, it is unnecessary and inappropriate for staff members to lift compliant inmates' restrained arms up behind their backs, even to pat search their lower back area. He also stated that it is not appropriate for staff members to lift or carry inmates if they are compliant and willing to walk on their own. He said using these techniques on compliant inmates violates the BOP's policies because it can cause the inmates unnecessary pain. As noted above, BOP policy prohibits staff members from using physical violence, causing inmates unnecessary physical pain or extreme discomfort, or using any force beyond that which is reasonably necessary to subdue an inmate. See BOP P.S. 3420.09 and 5566.05.
Several MDC staff members and a detainee's attorney told us they witnessed staff members carry detainees, lift detainees, pull detainees' restraint chains, or pull detainees' arms. For example, Lieutenant 1 stated he had to correct an officer for making detainees walk on their toes by lifting their arms or restraints in a painful way. Another MDC lieutenant said there were times officers pulled on detainees' handcuffs too much, and he had to slap the officers' hands away. In addition, one detainee's attorney told us that even though his client was in leg restraints, the officers hurried him down the hall so quickly that they nearly were picking him up off the ground when they brought his client to meet with him.
Most current or former MDC staff members we interviewed told us they did not see, hear, or ever recall staff members carrying detainees, lifting detainees, pulling detainees' restraint chains, or pulling detainees' arms to hurt their wrists.
On videotapes of the detainees, however, we observed MDC staff members carry compliant detainees, pull detainees' arms in a way that painfully strained their handcuffed wrists, and forcefully hurry detainees during escorts. For example, we saw staff members in separate incidents quickly move two detainees by carrying them horizontally to the floor, even though there was no indication the detainees refused to walk. We also saw several officers raise compliant detainees' handcuffed arms up behind their backs in a way that bent the detainees' elbows and appeared to hurt the detainees' arms and wrists. (Image 6)
Image 6: Officers raise compliant detainee's arms up behind his back.
The senior BOP official responsible for training new officers reviewed some of these instances on the videotapes and stated that the officers' use of these techniques was inappropriate.
We determined from the videotapes and witnesses' statements that some staff members inappropriately carried or lifted detainees, and raised or pulled their arms in painful ways. However, we did not substantiate detainees' allegations that staff members dragged them on the ground, lifted them solely by their chains, or refused to let their feet touch the ground for days.
Several detainees alleged that MDC staff members purposely stepped on their leg restraint chains while they were stationary and also while they were walking, injuring their ankles and causing them to fall. According to one detainee, after staff members stepped on his leg restraint chain and caused him to fall, they dragged him by his handcuffs and clothes, stood him up, stepped on his chain again, and repeated the process.
The senior BOP official who trains new BOP officers stated that staff members are never taught to step on inmates' leg restraint chains, even if the inmate is non-compliant, because there is no correctional purpose served in doing so. In his opinion, the only reason officers would step on an inmate's leg restraint chain would be to inflict pain. Again, BOP policy specifically prohibits staff members from using more force than necessary to control inmates, inflicting unnecessary physical pain on inmates, or causing inmates extreme discomfort.
Lieutenant 2 acknowledged that he observed officers step on detainees' leg restraint chains when they were placed against the wall, although he said he did not like it. He explained that because the detainees' legs were spread apart and the leg restraint chain was taut, the leg restraints could have bruised the detainees' ankles when officers stepped on the chain. Lieutenant 2 said he tried to correct officers when he saw them step on detainees' leg restraint chains.
An R&D staff member also said he saw officers step on detainees' leg restraint chains during pat searches in R&D. According to this staff member, officers stepped on the detainees' leg restraint chains when the detainees first started arriving at the MDC, although they stopped stepping on their leg restraint chains as time passed.
Similarly, an INS agent witnessed MDC staff members step on two detainees' leg restraint chains while firmly holding them against the wall. The agent said the more pressure the officers put on the leg restraint chains, the more the detainees squirmed and complained; and the more the detainees squirmed and complained, the "worse it got" for them.
One MDC correctional officer who assisted with approximately 7 to 10 detainee escorts from R&D to the ADMAX SHU said he observed staff members stepping on detainees' leg restraint chains. The officer incorrectly thought that security procedures required officers to step on detainees' leg restraint chains whenever they were stopped or whenever officers needed to remove their leg restraints. The officer said staff members stepped on detainees' leg restraint chains when they came out of their cells before going to recreation, when officers had to apply or remove leg restraints, or when officers escorting a detainee had to wait for elevators or doors. He stated, however, that he thought the officers only stepped on excess chain that was on the ground and not on chain that was stretched tight between the detainees' legs.
Our investigation found evidence that some detainees had substantial bruises and scabs around their ankles caused by the leg restraints. For example, we reviewed a videotape that showed that by one detainee's second day at the MDC, his ankles were badly bruised.16
Similarly, another detainee's attorney said that he observed significant black and blue bruises on his client's ankles and that his client told him they were caused by staff members who stepped on his leg restraint chains. Based on the statements of MDC staff members, we believe these injuries were the result of staff members stepping on detainees' leg restraint chains, although tight leg restraints that restricted blood flow also may have contributed to bruising around detainees' ankles.17
In our interviews, numerous current or former MDC staff members who handled the detainees asserted they never saw or heard of staff members stepping on detainees' leg restraint chains. Several of them, including a senior MDC management official, said it never would be appropriate for staff members to restrain detainees by stepping on their leg restraint chains, unless there was an emergency, because it would have hurt the detainees' legs or caused them to trip.
However, these denials were belied by the statements of other officers, which we described above. Moreover, despite the senior MDC management official's statement that it never was appropriate to step on a detainee's leg restraint chain, we saw a videotape in which he and another staff member appeared to restrain a detainee by stepping on his leg restraint chain during a non-emergency medical examination.18
Based on the consistency in the detainees' allegations, eyewitness statements by several staff members, videotape evidence of detainees' ankle injuries, and videotape evidence of the senior MDC management official and another staff member stepping on a detainee's leg restraint chain, we believe some staff members violated BOP policy by stepping on detainees' leg restraint chains. However, the evidence is inconclusive regarding whether MDC staff members stepped on detainees' leg restraint chains while they were walking or repeatedly tripped them and dragged them on the floor, as one detainee alleged.
As described in the June 2003 Detainee Report, the BOP treated all September 11 detainees as "high security" inmates, which meant that they were placed in the ADMAX SHU and subjected to the strictest form of confinement whenever they were taken out of their cells. For example, the detainees were restrained with what the BOP calls "hard restraints:" steel handcuffs, leg restraints, and sometimes waist chains.
Nine detainees alleged that staff members applied handcuffs or leg restraints too tightly, punished the detainees by squeezing their handcuffs tighter, did not loosen restraints after the detainees complained that they were very painful, or left detainees restrained in their cells for long periods of time. For example, one detainee filed a formal complaint against one officer for squeezing his handcuffs tightly during an escort and causing his wrists to bruise. Similarly, another detainee told us that some of the MDC staff members intentionally hurt the detainees by tightening their restraints. This detainee said that if the detainees were "mouthy" or cursed, staff members punished them by applying their restraints tightly. He also said that if a detainee complained that his restraints hurt, the staff members tightened his restraints even more.
While the proper application of restraints may result in some discomfort, the BOP prohibits staff members from using restraints to punish inmates, cause unnecessary physical pain or extreme discomfort with overly tight restraints, or restrict blood circulation in any manner. See BOP P.S. 5566.05 and 3420.09. When staff members apply restraints to inmates in "use of force" incidents, for example, the BOP prohibits staff members from continuing to restrain the inmates after they have gained control of them. See BOP P.S. 5566.05. In addition, the BOP prohibits staff members from applying restraints to an inmate in an administrative detention cell, such as an ADMAX SHU cell, without approval of the Warden or his designee. See BOP P.S. 5566.05.
The senior BOP official who trains new BOP officers stated that all BOP officers are taught how to apply restraints in a way that does not cause pain or restrict blood circulation. However, we observed a few instances on videotapes when medical personnel examining a detainee determined a detainee's restraints were applied too tightly and needed to be loosened. While these videotapes show that staff members applied some detainees' restraints too tightly, we did not substantiate particular detainees' allegations that staff members injured them by tightening their restraints or punished them by applying their restraints too tightly.
However, our investigation developed evidence that staff members punished at least two detainees by leaving them restrained in segregated cells for at least seven hours. According to the senior BOP official responsible for training new officers, inmates can be left in restraints in their cells only so long as they are combative. He stated a lieutenant has to check on the restrained inmates every two hours to determine if they are still physically combative. See BOP P.S. 5566.05. As soon as a lieutenant determines the inmate has regained physical control and is no longer a threat to himself, other inmates, or property, his restraints must be removed. The official said staff members violate BOP policy if they keep inmates restrained longer than necessary, or if they restrain inmates to punish or discipline them. He further stated that if inmates are being disruptive or noncompliant by yelling, it is entirely ineffective to place them in restraints because handcuffing them will not stop them from yelling. He said the only appropriate action would be to move them to another cell where their yelling cannot be disruptive.
On November 8, 2001, two detainees began yelling in their cells and banging on their cell doors in response to screams from a third detainee who was in the medical room having a blood sample taken.19 On videotapes, we heard a couple of detainees yelling, "What are you doing to [the third detainee]?" immediately after the third detainee began screaming. We also observed that as soon as these detainees began yelling and banging on their cell doors, a senior MDC management official abruptly turned and walked out of the medical exam room with his deputy following after him. Of the ten staff members in the medical exam room at the time, only the senior MDC management official and his deputy responded immediately to the detainees. Shortly after the senior MDC management official left the medical examination room, we heard a staff member, who sounded like the senior MDC management official, say things to the detainees like, "What do you want?" and "Are you done?"
Subsequently, according to staff members' memoranda and official reports, staff members activated an emergency alarm to request assistance on the ADMAX SHU and performed an "emergency use of force" on the two detainees who had yelled and banged on their cell doors. These memoranda and reports allege that the two detainees were staging a group demonstration and encouraging other detainees to riot and engage in a hunger strike. As part of the "emergency use of force," the two detainees were taken to recreation cells, left there for about half an hour, and then transferred to segregation cells.
In the videotapes of the two detainees initially being escorted from their cells to the recreation deck, we observed that they fully complied with the staff members and that the staff members were not aggressive with them. We saw no "use of force" employed or needed during these escorts from their cells.20
While the two detainees were on the recreation deck, we heard staff members discuss the incident off-camera. The staff members never indicated the two detainees were inciting a riot or staging a group demonstration. Instead, one staff member stated to the others that the ADMAX SHU could not house the detainees adequately because there were too many detainees for the staff to handle. Another staff member responded, "Well, things are quiet now. They are not yelling or nothing." Finally a third staff member, who sounded like the senior MDC management official, replied, "Right. We gotta follow up. We've got to leave them in restraints and make them behave - that this is not appropriate."
Shortly after this discussion, we saw on videotapes staff members escorting the two detainees from the recreation deck to segregation cells. These escorts were much more aggressive than the previous escorts to the recreation deck. We saw the officers rush the detainees down the corridors, slam one detainee into walls, ram the second detainee into walls, and hold both of them by their heads or necks. Two lieutenants present during these escorts submitted memoranda alleging that the two detainees were "placed against the wall" because they were uncooperative or resisting staff members. On videotapes of the escorts, however, the two detainees did not appear to be uncooperative or resisting staff members.
The two detainees were then left in hard restraints for more than seven hours in segregation cells.21 Although staff members submitted memoranda or reports indicating that the officers had handled the two detainees in accordance with BOP policy, the evidence we reviewed indicates that staff members violated BOP policy by using more force than necessary to gain control of the detainees - who appeared compliant - and by leaving them restrained in their cells for an inappropriately long period of time.
Based on our review of the videotapes that were recorded at different locations on the ADMAX SHU, it did not appear that the two detainees were staging a group demonstration, inciting a riot, or doing anything but yelling and banging on their cell doors in response to the screams of the third detainee who was in the medical exam room. While detainees are not permitted to yell, bang on doors, or curse at staff under ADMAX SHU rules, we do not believe the two detainees' behavior in this instance amounted to inciting a riot or required them to be locked in hard restraints in segregation cells for seven hours. Rather, the evidence suggests that in this incident, staff members used rough treatment and restraints to punish the two detainees, in violation of BOP policy.
Several detainees alleged MDC staff members handled them roughly or inappropriately, asserting that they were punched, kicked, beaten, or otherwise physically abused.
According to the BOP official who trains new BOP officers, officers are not to handle inmates roughly, aggressively, or in any manner that causes them unnecessary pain. He reiterated that using any more force than necessary in handling inmates violates BOP policy.
Several MDC staff members confirmed detainees' allegations that officers used unnecessary force and handled detainees roughly. A current MDC lieutenant who was assigned briefly to the ADMAX SHU stated that a lot of detainees were treated "pretty roughly" when they were brought into the sally port and R&D. Another lieutenant said, "We were not using kid gloves with these guys."
In addition, two former MDC lieutenants and a current lieutenant stated that some officers took their anger and frustration about the September 11 terrorist attacks out on the detainees. They stated they had to tell the officers to "ease up" when handling the detainees, and they had to remove some officers from escort teams because they were too rough with the detainees or were not able to handle them professionally. One of the lieutenants said that some officers "tried to prove that they were men or prove that America was superior" by being unprofessional or overly aggressive with the detainees.
An R&D staff member said he and other R&D staff members had to take officers off escort teams because they were "rambunctious" and "excited." In addition, the R&D staff member told us officers were unnecessarily rough while pat searching the detainees the first few days they arrived. He commented, "You feel bad if you're roughing up someone who is crying." This staff member also stated that he witnessed officers take off detainees' shoes during pat searches in R&D and knock them against the wall right next to the detainees' faces.
Despite these staff members' statements, many other current and former MDC staff members we interviewed claimed that officers never were aggressive with or used unnecessary force on the detainees. Many also denied that detainees were ever pressed or held to the wall. One lieutenant maintained that the detainees were "treated with kid gloves."
On the videotapes, however, we observed that staff members often handled detainees roughly or inappropriately. For example, we observed that staff members regularly pressed and held detainees to the wall. In addition, we saw one officer sharply slap a detainee on the shoulder and grab another detainee's shoulder and push him. We also saw another officer firmly poke a detainee in the shoulder without any provocation.
One detainee alleged that in late October 2001 staff members punished him twice for talking too much by stripping him, giving him only a sleeveless t-shirt, and locking him in a cell for 24 hours without food or blankets. A second detainee stated he saw officers put the first detainee in cell number 1 with no clothes or blankets, and throw water on the cell floor. The second detainee said that cell number 1 was the punishment cell and the officers kept the first detainee in there all the time. A third detainee also told us that staff members used cell number 1 to punish detainees.
The first detainee identified three staff members who allegedly punished him by locking him in a cell in a sleeveless t-shirt without food or blankets. When interviewed by the OIG, one of the staff members denied generally that any detainees were mistreated. The other two staff members said the detainee never was placed in a cell without food, although he had been placed on suicide watch once or twice and was stripped, given a suicide watch gown, and put in a different cell so he could be monitored.
However, the detainee's medical records do not indicate that he ever was suicidal or needed to be placed on suicide watch. His file also does not contain any suicide risk assessments or suicide watch records. If the detainee was suicidal, his suicide risk assessment or suicide watch should have been documented, as was done for more than ten other detainees.
We did not receive any videotapes that showed the detainee being placed on or monitored during a suicide watch, even though we received videotapes of other detainees who were placed on suicide watch. However, we observed on videotape an incident in which four staff members, including the two who maintained the detainee had been suicidal, cornered the detainee in a recreation cell while a lieutenant threatened him to stop inciting and talking to other detainees. The lieutenant told him that if he did not do what the staff members said, they would send him to a penitentiary where he would have even less privacy and freedom than at the MDC. The lieutenant said, "You think we can't break you? [The penitentiary] will." This incident indicates that staff members were irritated with the detainee and lends credibility to the detainee's allegation that some of the same staff members later punished him by locking him in a segregated cell because he talked too much.
While the evidence is not conclusive, it suggests that the detainee was not suicidal and staff members inappropriately and unnecessarily stripped him down to a sleeveless t-shirt and locked him in a segregation cell for 24 hours as a form of punishment.
In addition, videotape evidence and witnesses' statements indicate that some staff members often handled detainees roughly or inappropriately. However, we did not find evidence that staff members punched, kicked, or beat detainees, as some detainees alleged.
In sum, we concluded, based on videotape evidence, detainees' statements, witnesses' observations, and staff members who corroborated some allegations of abuse, that some MDC staff members slammed and bounced detainees into the walls at the MDC and inappropriately pressed detainees' heads against walls. We also found that some officers inappropriately twisted and bent detainees' arms, hands, wrists, and fingers, and caused them unnecessary physical pain; inappropriately carried or lifted detainees; and raised or pulled detainees' arms in painful ways. In addition, we believe some officers improperly used handcuffs, occasionally stepped on compliant detainees' leg restraint chains, and were needlessly forceful and rough with the detainees - all conduct that violates BOP policy. See BOP P.S. 5566.06.
Twenty-two detainees alleged that staff members verbally abused them by calling them names, cursing at them, threatening them, or making vulgar or otherwise inappropriate comments during strip searches. For example, detainees alleged staff members called them names like "terrorists," "mother fuckers," "fucking Muslims," and "bin Laden Junior." They also said staff members threatened them by saying things like:
"Whatever you did at the World Trade Center, we will do to you."
"You're never going to be able to see your family again."
"If you don't obey the rules, I'm going to make your life hell."
"You're never going to leave here."
"You're going to die here just like the people in the World Trade Center died."
Several of the detainees said that when they arrived at the MDC, they were yelled at and told things like:
"Someone thinks you have something to do with the terrorist attacks, so don't expect to be treated well."
"Don't ask any questions, otherwise you will be dead."
"Put your nose against the wall or we will break your neck."
"If you question us, we will break your neck."
"I'm going to break your face if you breathe or move at all."
One detainee stated that when the detainees prayed in the ADMAX SHU, officers said things like, "Shut the fuck up! Don't pray. Fucking Muslim. You're praying bullshit." Another detainee alleged that when the officers were mistreating the detainees, the officers sometimes said, "Welcome to America."
The BOP P.S. 3420.09, "Standards of Employee Conduct," specifically prohibits verbal abuse of inmates, stating, "An employee may not use . . . intimidation toward inmates," and "[a]n employee may not use profane, obscene, or otherwise abusive language when communicating with inmates. [Employees] shall conduct themselves in a manner which will not be demeaning to inmates."
Nearly all of the staff members we interviewed denied ever verbally abusing the detainees or witnessing any other staff member verbally abuse detainees. Several of them denied ever hearing another staff member even utter a curse word around the detainees. One officer told us that all the staff members were "very polite" with the detainees and that they would ask the detainees, "Can you please do this?" and "Can you please do that?" instead of ordering them around.
However, in our interviews with several current and former staff members, we found evidence that corroborated some of the detainees' allegations of verbal abuse and refuted the officers' denials. For example, one current lieutenant told us that when some detainees requested more food, he heard some officers respond, "You're not getting shit because you killed all those people."
Another current lieutenant told us about one officer who referred to the detainees as "fuckers." In addition, a staff member from R&D stated that officers cursed around the detainees, and told each other jokes and made derogatory statements about the detainees during strip searches.22
One officer acknowledged to us that officers sometimes let their personal feelings get in the way of their professional responsibilities and said things they should not have said. Moreover, a former officer, who maintained that he and fellow officers never verbally abused the detainees, frequently called the detainees "terrorists," "dirtbags," and "scumbags" during one of our interviews of him.
In addition to these current and former staff members, witnesses from outside the MDC also provided some corroboration for the detainees' allegations of verbal abuse. One detainee's attorney said he heard MDC officers constantly refer to the detainee as "the terrorist," "the 9/11 guy," or "the bomber." Similarly, an INS agent told us the detainees were read "the riot act" when they first were brought into the MDC.
We also found evidence on videotapes that suggested officers made inappropriate statements regarding the detainees. For instance, contrary to what many staff members told us, we heard on videotapes staff members curse repeatedly around the detainees. We also saw staff members behave unprofessionally during some strip searches, as the R&D staff member described; on videotapes, staff members laughed, exchanged suggestive looks, and made funny noises before and during strip searches.
We also observed one officer, who was assisting in a routine escort of a detainee, suddenly shout to another staff member in a threatening way, "This guy over here (gesturing to the detainee) thinks by getting nasty with a female officer and disobeying orders, he's going to get shit (legal calls) from you." At this point, the video camera operator admonished the officer to watch what he said on camera. At the end of the escort, the officer leaned over to the detainee and quietly said something that could not be heard on camera.
Similarly, as discussed above, we observed four staff members corner one detainee in a recreation cell. A lieutenant told him that if he did not do what the staff members said, they would send him to a penitentiary where officers would "break" him. This incident is very similar to threats that another detainee alleged a lieutenant made to him. The other detainee told us that a lieutenant against whom he filed a complaint came to his cell and threatened him by saying, "If you guys make too much noise, you're going to the [penitentiary]. And those guys are killers. You won't survive an hour there."
From the statements of several staff members and witnesses outside the MDC and from the videotapes that we reviewed, we concluded that some staff members violated BOP policy by verbally abusing some detainees.