Jail Money

Published February 4, 2013

Lawsuits filed by inmates in Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail – most of them frivolous – have cost the city more than $111 million over the past five years.

Suits have been filed for slips in a shower, a bed that’s too short, water that’s too hot served in the dining room. The payments come because the city will pay the prisoners a few thousand dollars rather than run up legal bills to fight the case in court.

“Once the lawsuit is created, even if it’s nonsense, they still get paid – and most of them are nonsense,” a prison source said. “They know the city will investigate and say it’s not worth going to court. They’ll offer $2,000 to squash it, and the lawyer will tell the inmate, ‘It’s a bulls–t case, but they’re offering $2,000 – you should take it.’ “

“Inmates who bring frivolous lawsuits and their attorneys waste city taxpayer dollars,” said a spokeswoman for the city law department. “They unfortunately require us to deploy valuable public resources to investigate and defend the city.”

Source: Doug Montero and Dan Macleon, “Rikers Island inmates cost city big $$ with ‘frivolous’ lawsuits,” New York Post, January 14, 2013