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Supplemental Report on September 11 Detainees' Allegations of Abuse at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York

December 2003
Office of the Inspector General


We recognize that the MDC faced enormous challenges after the September 11 attacks and that many MDC staff members responded to these challenges by maintaining their professionalism and appropriately performing their duties under difficult and emotional circumstances. However, we believe some staff members acted unprofessionally and abusively. In Appendix A, we describe these specific offenses and the evidence relating to them. We believe that appropriate administrative action should be taken against those employees.

In addition, we believe that the BOP and the MDC should review the evidence from our investigation to better prepare for and respond to future emergencies involving detainees, as well as to improve its routine handling of inmates. We therefore offer a series of recommendations to address issues of concern relating to the MDC's treatment of the detainees.

  1. During our investigation, we encountered a significant variance of opinion among MDC staff members regarding what restraint and escorting techniques were appropriate for compliant and noncompliant inmates. We recommend that the BOP provide clear, specific guidance for BOP staff members on what restraint and escorting techniques are and are not appropriate. This guidance could take the form of written policy and demonstrations or examples given during training. The guidance should address techniques at issue in this investigation, including placing inmates' faces against the wall, stepping on inmates' leg restraint chains, and using pain compliance methods on inmates' hands and arms.

  2. We found that the MDC regularly audio taped detainees' meetings with their attorneys, in violation of 28 C.F.R. 543.13(e) and BOP policy. We recommend that BOP management take immediate steps to educate its staff on the law prohibiting, except in specific limited circumstances, the audio monitoring of communications between inmates and their attorneys.

  3. While the staff members denied verbally abusing the detainees, we found evidence of staff members making threats to detainees and engaging in conduct that was demeaning to the detainees. We recommend that the BOP and MDC management counsel MDC staff members concerning language that is abusive and inappropriate and remind them of the BOP policy concerning verbal abuse.

  4. Because specific officers were not pre-assigned to escort detainees to and from the ADMAX SHU, the lieutenants in charge of escorts used available staff from throughout the institution for the escort teams. Several lieutenants told us that the lack of designated teams contributed to the potential for abuse on escorts. Likewise, while specific staff members were assigned to the ADMAX SHU, we observed on videotapes that staff members from all over the institution, including staff members who had little or no experience handling inmates, were on the ADMAX SHU and had physical contact with the detainees. We recommend that institutions select and train experienced officers to handle high security and sensitive inmates, enforce the policy that a comprehensive log of duty officers and a log for visitors be maintained on the unit, and restrict access to the unit to the assigned staff members, absent exigent circumstances. MDC staff members advised us that officer logs, visitor logs, and restrictions on access to the unit were in place for the ADMAX SHU, but the videotapes showed that the procedures were not followed.

  5. By requiring that all detainees' movements be videotaped and installing cameras in each ADMAX SHU cell, BOP and MDC officials took steps to help deter abuse of September 11 detainees and to refute unfounded allegations of abuse. Once the MDC began videotaping all detainee movements, incidents and allegations of physical and verbal abuse significantly decreased. We therefore recommend that the BOP analyze and consider implementing a policy to videotape movements of sensitive or high-security inmates as soon as they arrive at institutions.

  6. We found evidence indicating that many of the strip searches conducted on the ADMAX SHU were filmed in their entirety and frequently showed the detainees naked. The strip searches also did not afford the detainees much privacy, leaving them exposed to female officers who were in the vicinity. In addition, the policy for strip searching detainees on the ADMAX SHU was applied inconsistently, many of the strip searches appeared to be unnecessary, and a few appeared to be intended to punish the detainees. For example, many detainees were strip searched after attorney and social visits, even though these visits were in no-contact rooms separated by thick glass, the detainees were restrained, and the visits were filmed.

    We believe that the BOP should develop a national policy regarding the videotaping of strip searches. We also believe MDC management should provide inmates with some degree of privacy when conducting these strip searches, to the extent that security is not compromised.

    In addition, MDC staff members complained to us and to each other off-camera of inadequate resources on the ADMAX SHU to handle the large number of detainees. Because a strip search involves three or four officers, the BOP should review its policies of requiring strip searches for circumstances where it would be impossible for an inmate to have obtained contraband, such as after no-contact attorney or social visits, unless the specific circumstances warrant suspicion.

  7. We found evidence that some MDC medical personnel failed to ask detainees how they were injured or to examine detainees who alleged they were injured. We recommend MDC and BOP management reinforce to health services personnel that they should ask inmates how they were injured, examine inmates' alleged injuries, and record their findings in the medical records.