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Repercussions at Rikers

Amsterdam News, News Report, Cyril Josh Barker Posted: Feb 04, 2009

The death of a Rikers Island inmate has landed three correctional officers indictments for their role in the slaying. Last Thursday, Officers Michael McKie, Kahlid Nelson and Denise Albright where charged with 58 counts in the October beating death of 18-year-old inmate Christopher Robinson.

Reports indicate that Robinson died while serving time at the Robert N. Devoren Center, a juvenile facility at Rikers Island. Fellow inmates allegedly beat him to death after he refused to join a so-called fight club called "The Program," where inmates are divided into teams and trained by correction officers to assault each other.

The three correctional officers pled not guilty in Bronx Criminal Court. If convicted, McKie and Nelson could face 25 years in prison, while Albright could face two years for conspiracy and assault. According to the Department of Investigations, the officers are being charged for enterprise corruption.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said, "If these allegations are true, the behavior of the correction officers was worse than that of some of the young detainees under their supervision. What is most disturbing, however, is that this conduct turned a detention facility for adolescents into an incubator for violent criminal activity sanctioned by adults in positions of authority."

Robinson was serving a sentence for violating parole. On Friday, three other inmates were slapped with manslaughter charges, while 12 others are facing gang assault charges. Other inmates have come out about the secret society that killed Robinson. In one report, an inmate reveled that other inmates beat him after he refused to join "The Program" while guards watched, doing nothing.

The same inmate reported that he was forced to do degrading things and that he was subjected to regular beatings. A four-month investigation into Robinson's death uncovered behavior among the inmates that include larceny and extortion.

New York City Department of Investigations Commissioner Rose Hearn said that this was the worse case she had seen involving the city's correction department. "The most chilling revelation of this investigation is that three New York City correction officers joined in a systematic and brutal scheme of intimidation and gang assault by and upon adolescent inmates in their custody. That scheme led to the death of an 18-year-old inmate," she said.

According to Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn, Robinson's death is "tragic and shocking." He said while there are more than 100,000 people in custody of New York City correction officers, Robinson is the first homicide in a city jail in four years.

"If the charges against the correction officers are true, they are a stain on the well-earned reputations of officers who perform their difficult and dangerous tasks every day with integrity and compassion," Horn said. "We will continue our efforts to make every person in our jails safe, and I send a message to all of our staff: Those few who fail to live up to their oath of office and our standards will not be tolerated."

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