11 May 2004
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General
This report details the investigation conducted by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concerning allegations that staff members of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York, physically and verbally abused aliens who were detained in connection with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.1 In June 2003, we issued a broader, 198-page report evaluating the treatment of 762 detainees who were held on immigration charges in connection with the investigation of the September 11 attacks.2 In that report, we examined how the Department of Justice (Department) handled these detainees, including their processing, their bond decisions, the timing of their removal from the United States or their release from custody, their access to counsel, and their conditions of confinement.
1 In this report, staff members refers to MDC employees, including correctional officers, lieutenants, management officials, and other personnel.
2 See The September 11 Detainees: A Review of the Treatment of Aliens Held on Immigration Charges in Connection with the Investigation of the September 11 Attacks (Detainee Report), issued June 2, 2003. The report is located on the OIGs website at http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/03-06/index.htm.
In Chapter 7 of the Detainee Report, we described the treatment of September 11 detainees in the MDC, and we concluded that the conditions were excessively restrictive and unduly harsh. Those conditions included inadequate access to counsel, sporadic and mistaken information to detainees families and attorneys about where they were being detained, lockdown for at least 23 hours a day, cells remaining illuminated 24 hours a day, detainees placed in heavy restraints whenever they were moved outside their cells, limited access to recreation, and inadequate notice to detainees about the process for filing complaints about their treatment.
We also concluded in the Detainee Report that evidence showed some MDC correctional officers physically and verbally abused some September 11 detainees, particularly during the months immediately following the September 11 attacks. However, we noted in our report that our investigation of physical and verbal abuse was not completed, and we stated that we would provide our findings in a separate report. This report details our findings and conclusions from the investigation.
We have provided the results of our investigation to managers at BOP Headquarters for their review and appropriate disciplinary action. In the report to the BOP, we include an Appendix identifying those staff members who we believe committed misconduct or exercised poor judgment and setting forth the specific evidence against them. In the Appendix, we also describe the allegations against specific officers that we did not substantiate.
As discussed in detail below, our investigation developed evidence substantiating allegations that MDC staff members physically and verbally abused September 11 detainees. In the Appendix referenced above, we recommend that the BOP consider taking disciplinary action against ten current BOP employees, counseling two current MDC employees, and informing employers of four former staff members about our findings against them.
Many of the staff members we interviewed described the atmosphere at the MDC immediately after September 11 as emotionally charged. One of the lieutenants currently at the MDC said the staff had a great deal of anger after September 11 and that it was a chaotic time at the MDC. Another lieutenant, one of the lieutenants responsible for escorting detainees, stated that upon entering the institution the detainees were handed over to teams of five to seven officers who were spiked with adrenaline. He said that there were some officers on the escort teams who were getting ready for battle and talking crazy. Another lieutenant responsible for escorting detainees similarly described the officers as high on adrenaline.
After consolidating approximately 30 detainees reported allegations against approximately 20 MDC staff members, we sorted the allegations of physical abuse into the following six categories:
1. Slamming detainees against walls;
2. Bending or twisting detainees arms, hands, wrists, and fingers;
3. Lifting restrained detainees off the ground by their arms, and pulling their arms and handcuffs;
4. Stepping on detainees leg restraint chains;
5. Using restraints improperly; and
6. Handling detainees in an otherwise rough or inappropriate manner.
The detainees also alleged that MDC staff members verbally abused them by referring to them as terrorists and other offensive names; threatened them; cursed at them; and made offensive comments during strip searches.
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 detainees chest against the wall.
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).
Several detainees alleged that sometimes women were present during strip searches on the ADMAX SHU, which one detainee told the OIG he viewed as an affront to his religious beliefs. During several of the videotaped strip searches, female voices can be heard in the background. In addition, one videotape shows a female staff member walking in the vicinity of a detainee undergoing a strip search.
Some detainees complained that the strip searches were used by the MDC staff as punishment. For example, in one videotape four officers escorted one detainee into a recreation cell and ordered him to strip while they berated him for talking too much with other detainees and for encouraging them to go on a hunger strike. We could see no correctional purpose or justification for strip searching this detainee, who had just been taken from his cell, pat searched, and then escorted into the recreation cell by the four officers.
One detainee claimed that officers kicked the doors non-stop in order to keep the detainees from sleeping. He stated that for the first two or three weeks he was at the MDC, one of the officers walked by about every 15 minutes throughout the night, kicked the doors to wake up the detainees, and yelled things such as, Motherfuckers, Assholes, and Welcome to America. Similarly, another detainee stated that when officers kicked the doors to wake the detainees up, they said things like, Motherfuckers sleeping? Get up! A third detainee also claimed that a few officers made loud noises at night to keep the detainees awake and that these officers appeared to have fun conducting the counts by knocking on the cell doors. Another detainee said that officers would not let the detainees sleep during the day or night from the time he arrived at the MDC in the beginning of October through mid-November 2001.