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Westchester County Jail, Government Reach Deal Over Inmates, Civil Rights

Westchester County Jail officials have reached an agreement with the government over the treatment of inmates and the violation of their civil rights.
Westchester County Jail officials have reached an agreement with the government over the treatment of inmates and the violation of their civil rights. Photo Credit: Westchester County Department of Corrections

MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. -- Westchester County Jail officials have reached an agreement with the government over the treatment of inmates and the violation of their civil rights, according to Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The agreement, that resolves a long-running investigation that began in 2009 over civil rights complaints from inmates, requires jail officials to make changes in several areas including officers use of force, isolation, and providing inadequate medical and mental health care for inmates, Bharara said.

Approved by the Westchester County Board of Acquisition and Contract, the agreement also requires the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure that the jail complies with the agreement that last for three years, or until it has achieved substantial compliance.

Located in Valhalla, the jail houses pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates as well as minors awaiting transfer to a juvenile detention facility and minors adjudicated as adults.

Bharara said: “As I have emphasized many times before, within the walls of a correctional facility does not mean outside the protection of the Constitution.

"Jails have a constitutional obligation to take reasonable steps to protect the safety of inmates and to provide humane conditions of confinement. This agreement, and the commitment on the part of the County to comply with its terms, are important steps toward ensuring that inmates at Westchester County Jail are treated in a manner consistent with the Constitution.”

In 2009, the U.S., under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, issued a letter regarding constitutional violations at the jail. Key findings included that the jail had failed to adequately protect inmates from physical harm caused by inappropriate and excessive force used by staff and failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care, particularly with respect to minors housed in isolation in the punitive segregation unit of the jail, all resulting in unconstitutional living conditions.

Since then, an ongoing investigation into the matter, showed jail officials had made some progress in addressing the problems, but will now have to address all of the corrective measures under the agreement, Bharara said.

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