Young Inmates Say They Were Shipped Upstate, Held in Isolation and Beaten

The young inmates were taken by van from a jail on Rikers Island in New York City to an airfield hours north of the city. There, the abuse started almost immediately, according to a federal lawsuit filed on Friday.

A dozen correction officers from a county jail led them inside a building and into metal cages. They would issue deliberately confusing commands and when the inmates failed to comply, the guards would pummel and kick them, use their Taser guns, and shove their fingers and batons into their rectums.

“This is not Rikers,’’ the guards shouted before sending the inmates to solitary confinement at the jail, the Albany County Correctional Facility.

The abuse was designed for inmates from Rikers who had been accused of assaulting correction officers, according to the suit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan by three inmates and another young man who had been held in the Albany jail.

The lawsuit comes five months after a New York Times investigation found that New York City had increased the number of young inmates transferred to correctional facilities elsewhere in the state since 2015, when the city banned solitary for inmates younger than 22 and limited it for others.

While New York has long had the power to transfer inmates, defense lawyers and inmate advocates criticized the increase as an end-run around the city’s own rules, adding that it undermined Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise to reform the criminal justice system.

In many cases, inmates sent away from New York City have been accused of assaulting guards and are transferred in part because their safety cannot be ensured.

But the lawsuit, filed against the city, Albany County officials and individual correction officers, said that the inmates’ constitutional rights were violated when they were sent upstate without any regard for their welfare, and that the men were systematically targeted for brutal treatment carried out by high-ranking correction staff.

“The lawsuit will reveal that the city knows what’s going on and condones it,” said Katherine Rosenfeld, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, who are represented by two private law firms. “They keep putting people in the van and sending them up there.”

A spokesman for the mayor, Eric Phillips, did not respond directly to the accusations of abuse. In a statement, Mr. Phillips said, “For an extremely small number of young detainees facing credible safety threats in our jails, the safest option is a transfer to another facility.”

The Albany County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The inmates’ situation was exacerbated when they were sent to solitary confinement, the suit claimed. Isolation increases the risk of depression or suicide, especially among younger inmates.

The city’s jail reforms were inspired, in part, Mr. de Blasio said, by Kalief Browder, a teenager who committed suicide after spending much of his three years at Rikers in solitary confinement before robbery charges against him were dropped.

Hundreds of inmates have been kept out of isolation since the city implemented its ban on solitary confinement for young people and reduced its use for other inmates. Still, the transfer of inmates to outside jails seems to highlight the limitations of the ban.

Two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were 19 and 21 when they were transferred to Albany. The other two were older than 22. One of the plaintiffs is identified only as John Doe because he fears retaliation by correction workers.

One of the plaintiffs, Davon Washington, who is now 22, said in an interview at his home in the Bronx that he wrote the mayor and provided a detailed account of the abuse, and asked to be transferred elsewhere. He said he never received a response.

Mr. Washington was transferred from Rikers Island to the Albany facility in March, two weeks after he said he got into an altercation with a city deputy warden. He was there until November and released from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in Albany on Monday. He had been convicted of attempted robbery.

“I’ve been trying to forget about Albany,” he said.

Like each of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Mr. Washington said during the interview and in the lawsuit that in Albany, he was forced to follow a series of commands. The moment he made a mistake, he was repeatedly punched in the face and then stomped by multiple correction officers.

He said there was a lieutenant who led the attacks and directed the officers while a superintendent watched. The officers accused him of hiding contraband in his body, but he said he did not have anything on him. He said a correction officer inserted two fingers into his rectum. He said he was taken to a body scanner designed to detect contraband stored in a person’s body.

At one point, a nurse asked if he had any injuries. When he said he did, he was punched in the face.

Mr. Washington, who was handcuffed and shackled, was eventually placed in isolation. While inside the small cell, he said, the officers attacked him again. After the beating, he was bleeding, his tooth was chipped, his lip was split, and he had bruises all over his body. During the attacks, he said, he thought he was going to die.

He received an infraction ticket for trying to assault an officer, which he said was a bogus claim. At a disciplinary hearing, he was sentenced to 360 days in isolation and denied phone privileges for a month.

“I was losing my mind doing the same thing over and over again,” Mr. Washington said.

He said he was beaten again in October, after correction officers learned he had met with lawyers about his allegations of abuse.

“The city failed to investigate or remediate these conditions and has continued sending detainees, including many aged 21 and younger, to the Albany County Jail without notice or hearing, to be beaten and put in solitary confinement,” the lawsuit said.

The other plaintiffs include Pariis Tillery, 25, and Steven Espinal, 19. Mr. Espinal was one of four inmates charged with gang assault for the attack on Rikers Island correction officer Jean Souffrant, which was captured on video. The attack left the officer’s spine fractured.

Mr. Espinal said he was beaten in Albany, lost hearing in his left ear, and passed blood in his urine after the attacks. He was hospitalized and sentenced to 600 days in solitary confinement.

“They would say these are violent kids. These kids have done — some of them — very violent things. They’re human,” said Steven Goldman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, adding that correction staff “attach blame and now it’s open season.”

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Opinion | I’m 13 and I Write Holiday Cards to People in Prison

LOS ANGELES — When I was 5, my mom asked me if I wanted to help her write holiday cards to people in prison who had been raped behind bars. She didn’t say it like that, of course, because I didn’t know what prison or rape was.

Instead, she told me that there were thousands of ladies and gentlemen who were spending Christmas alone, unable to leave their rooms as they pleased, and that other people had been really mean to them.

I can’t remember which I thought was worse — to be forced to stay in my room or to be mistreated. But either way, I agreed to help my mom.

I am 13 now, and I still write holiday cards to people in prison. It’s really fun to think of nice things to say to people you’ve never met. I always try to imagine what I would want to hear if I was forced to be away from my family and was being treated poorly. I would be terrified, sad and worried that nobody remembered that I existed.

I usually end up writing something simple, like “I care about you,” or “We will not forget you.” And then I make colorful little drawings of flowers or Christmas trees or smiley faces or fruit. I know that those silly drawings make people really happy; there isn’t much color in prison.

The holiday cards make some prisoners smile. Others cry because they didn’t think people on the outside cared about what was happening to them. I know this because Just Detention International, the organization that passes my cards along (and also where my mom works) has showed me many of the responses it gets from the cards it sends around. When I was a little kid, I thought that was so amazing to be able to make grown-ups smile and cry.

One man, Ricardo, wrote the organization in 2017: “I received the season’s greetings cards. You all really made my day. They were the only ones I received. I read them over and over until I fell asleep. And when I woke up I read them all over again. You all can never imagine how strong they made me feel.”

Another prisoner, Sarah, wrote in 2012: “This was my fifth consecutive Christmas in solitary confinement, but with the help of people who care, I was able to feel at ease. I made a little tree out of a magazine and set up my cards around it to remind me that I am not forgotten.”

The point of these cards is to make prisoners who have been sexually abused feel better. But it also feels really good to write them. So it’s a win-win. This year my whole school is writing cards. And my friends always help.

At first, some of my friends worried that they may be writing to prisoners who have done horrible things to someone else. But then we talk about that and we usually agree that the point of these cards isn’t why people are in prison; it’s that they have been abused while there. And that’s never O.K.

Even for those of us not in prison, it’s been a pretty hard year. Everyone seems angry and afraid. But it’s not all bad. We can still choose to be kind and do something nice for someone else, someone we don’t even know — and we’ll feel better about ourselves as a result.

I write Christmas cards to prisoners. I hope you do something that makes you and another person feel good this holiday season.

Sofia Robinson is an eighth grader at the Episcopal School of Los Angeles.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

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The Indian man in prison for cracking jokes

For nearly a month, a 41-year-old Indian man has been in prison for posting five satirical tweets.

In September, Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a Delhi-based defence specialist with some 20,000 Twitter followers posted what he himself described as a “disparaging” video from a visit to the 13th Century Konark temple in the eastern state of Orissa.

Following outrage against his “vulgar” comments about the temple, which features erotic sculptures, he quickly clarified that the tweet was a joke, and the sculptures were “exquisite”. The other tweets appear to be making fun of the people of the state and another of its famous temples.

Two locals filed police complaints saying the tweets had hurt the sentiments of the 40 million people who live in Orissa, which is known for its historic temples, sun-washed beaches and delicious cuisine. It’s another matter that there has been no public agitation against Mr Iyer-Mitra for his comments and that one of his offending tweets got just seven likes and one retweet.

Multiple charges

But Mr Iyer-Mitra has been slapped with a bewildering array of charges for his “crimes”.

He’s been accused of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and race in a place of worship, insulting religious feelings and creating “public nuisance”. He has been charged with an “obscene act in a public place”. A protection of ancient monument law has been invoked to charge him with misuse of the Konark temple where he recorded his video. And the information and technology law has been dredged up to charge him with sending offensive messages.

As if all this was not enough, Mr Iyer-Mitra has also been accused of defamation under a controversial colonial-era law. At least two of the charges are non-bailable and, if found guilty, he could spend five years in prison.

Mr Iyer-Mitra has apologised unreservedly – “I beg apology because of my stupidity,” he said – to Orissa’s lawmakers. Despite that, police have pressed on with the charges and a lower court has refused to grant him bail, saying he could intimidate witnesses or tamper with evidence. (Such apprehensions have been rubbished by a former Supreme Court judge.)

Twice, Mr Iyer-Mitra’s bail pleas in the lower court have been rejected. Even the Supreme Court has refused to grant him bail saying he was “inciting religious faith”. The top court judge said jail was the safest place for him if he feared for his life, a remark which rights group Amnesty International found “deeply worrying”.

To make matters worse, a 78-day-old strike by lawyers in Orissa protesting against the alleged assault of a colleague has meant that Mr Iyer-Mitra has had to personally plead for bail in makeshift courts set up in the prison where he’s being held.

He also appears to have become a pawn in a political game involving a prominent local MP who has fallen foul of the state’s chief minister.

When he made his “objectionable” video, Mr Iyer-Mitra was a guest of Baijayant “Jay” Panda, a former member of parliament who was forced out of Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s political party. Many believe Mr Patnaik was looking to embarrass Mr Panda and the video came in handy to do just that.

That Mr Panda was hosting someone who is seen to have made disparaging comments against the people of Orissa has put him in an immensely uncomfortable position, following what many believe was orchestrated outrage.

Mr Iyer-Mitra, who works with the think-tank Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, has always been a bit of gadfly on social media. A columnist and researcher who knows him well says he has “never hidden that he is provocative” and that he was “often incorrect, sometimes correct” in his provocations.

‘Hurting sentiments’

Ironically, earlier this year, Mr Iyer-Mitra tweeted that a criminal case should be filed against American historian Audrey Truschke for allegedly abusing a Hindu god and “hurting sentiments”.

“Bog her down in the legal system – can’t leave on bail,” he wrote. He has also tweeted about putting human rights activists and Communists in prison. One of his friends told me that most of his tweets were written in jest and “he now possibly regrets posting some of them”.

Whatever the case, many believe that jailing a person for posting jokes, however offensive some people may find them, is an attack on the freedom of speech.

Mr Iyer-Mitra has been kept in a prison cell for these alleged offences, partly because of a slow judicial system, and partly because of the growing climate of intolerance sweeping India, they say. The fact that a senior federal minister has almost justified his arrest, saying those who “hurt Orissa’s pride should be brought to book” also betrays the complete apathy of politicians to safeguarding the freedom of expression.

Rights group Amnesty International tweeted on Tuesday that the government “must release” Mr Iyer-Mitra.

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Others like columnist Kanchan Gupta believe Mr Iyer-Mitra’s arrest proved that India is “slipping into a zone where freedom is in danger”.

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Putting Mr Iyer-Mitra in prison for cracking jokes smacks of petty vindictiveness and damages India’s already wobbly reputation as a liberal democracy.

Free speech appears to be in peril all around: journalists have been arrested, independent media has been under attack, internet shutdowns have become common, and cases of defamation, sedition and censorship are on the rise.

Comparisons will be drawn to the former Soviet Union where a teacher was put in prison in the 1950s for telling a joke. Now it seems India needs to be reminded that the right to tell people what they often do not want to hear, even in jest, is inalienable.

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After Whitey Bulger Killing, Warden of ‘Misery Mountain’ Faces Ouster

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is planning to oust the warden of the prison where James (Whitey) Bulger, the famous mobster and informant, was murdered in October.

Hugh Hurwitz, the bureau’s acting director, has told multiple people that he plans to replace the warden, Joe Coakley, at the Hazelton prison complex in Bruceton Mills, W. Va., according to a high-ranking official at the agency.

Mr. Coakley, the official said, presided over a troubled prison — nicknamed Misery Mountain — where there are indications that a top suspect in Mr. Bulger’s murder, a gangster named Fotios (Freddy) Geas, was a “shot caller” who wielded unusual influence with both inmates and the staff. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information to the public.

The killing of Mr. Bulger, just hours after he arrived at the prison, has been a major embarrassment for a federal agency that was already under fire for dangerous conditions, understaffing, sexual harassment and its treatment of elderly and mentally ill inmates.

Mr. Hurwitz, the official said, is considering tapping Bryan Antonelli, the warden at the Williamsburg prison in Salters, S.C., to take over the Hazelton prison complex. He added that Mr. Antonelli is seen by some at the bureau as a “cleanup guy,” who is called in to fix problems at troubled prisons.

The bureau has opened an investigation into the case with about 20 prison officials serving as investigators, according to the high-ranking official, and they have traveled to places that are rarely scrutinized, such as a little-known office in Grand Prairie, Tex. The office, which is responsible for prisoner transfers, may have skipped a crucial step in vetting the aging mobster’s move to Hazelton, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Bulger, 89, terrorized South Boston in the 1970s and ’80s, and was serving two life terms for his role in 11 murders. Just hours after he arrived at the prison, at least two inmates rolled his wheelchair out of view of cameras and pummeled him with a padlock in a sock. At least four Hazelton inmates, including Mr. Geas, have been placed in segregated housing in connection with the murder.

Investigators are trying to figure out the details of why Mr. Bulger was transferred from the Coleman II penitentiary in Sumterville, Fla., to Hazelton, a prison known to be dangerous for informants, and why he was placed in the general population there.

The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment, citing personnel matters and the continuing investigation, and did not make anyone available for an interview.

In an earlier statement, the agency said Mr. Bulger was transferred after threatening a staff member. New details show, though, that Mr. Bulger had a different view, maintaining that the staff member had given him a heart attack by yelling at him.

According to a disciplinary report obtained by The Times, at about 8:45 a.m. on Feb. 23, Mr. Bulger was at the Florida prison’s medical office, complaining of chest pains. After taking his vital signs and completing a cardiac test, the report said, Mr. Bulger was found to be experiencing severe cardiac complications. He was informed that he needed to be transferred to the hospital emergency room.

He refused, the report said, becoming argumentative.

“You are treating me like a dog,” he said to a female medical worker, according to the report. “You will have your reckoning and will pay for this. I know people and my word is good.”

Mr. Bulger disputed this account, according to the report, explaining that he had gone to the medical office to ask for a long-sleeve shirt to wear to visitation and that the medical worker had started arguing with him. He said he went back into the waiting room, but he started feeling ill.

“I knew I was having a heart attack,” Mr. Bulger said in his account, “so I knocked back on the window.” He said he asked for an electrocardiogram and oxygen and, when the medical worker saw the results, she said he needed to go to the hospital.

“I told her I came in for a long-sleeve shirt and she’ll have a day of reckoning and I’ll expose her for giving me a heart attack,” Mr. Bulger said in his account. “She gave me a heart attack due to yelling at me. It was all blown out of proportion. I didn’t threaten her.”

Mr. Bulger was sentenced to 30 days in segregated housing, sometimes called solitary confinement, but he languished there until October while the staff tried to get him transferred to another prison.

“Due to his criminal history, he is clearly able to carry out these threats,” a transfer request said.

At least one transfer request was denied in April. But, in October, the office approved a move for Mr. Bulger, according to documents obtained by The Times.

On Oct. 3, a staff member in the Office of Medical Designations and Transportation, which would generally deal with inmates with health problems or disabilities, wrote in an email to colleagues, “I would like to transfer him to HAZ,” using the abbreviation for Hazelton. She said he had also been cleared to go to three other penitentiaries, Terre Haute in Indiana, Thomson in Illinois and Victorville in California. Terre Haute, like Coleman, is known to be a safe haven of sorts for inmates who might need extra protection, like informants and former gang members.

Two managers, one in Grand Prairie and one in Washington, signed off.

But they failed to consult the Texas office’s internal intelligence group, which would normally have reviewed the move of a high-profile inmate like Mr. Bulger, the official said.

“They skipped a step,” the official said. “They didn’t conduct a thorough review of the inmate.”

The team had examined Mr. Bulger’s file before. In 2014, when he was transferred from a Tucson, Ariz., prison to Coleman, the team blocked a move to a prison in Allenwood, Pa., according to emails obtained by The Times. Coleman was recommended instead because of a lack of inmates with ties to organized crime.

On Oct. 29, Mr. Bulger arrived at Hazelton, a prison with multiple inmates with Mafia connections.

Under Mr. Coakley’s watch, Mr. Bulger would soon be placed in the same unit as Mr. Geas, a mafia hit man from West Springfield, Mass., serving a life sentence for murder.

Mr. Geas, who is suspected of being involved in beating Mr. Bulger to death, appeared to have been relied on by prison staff as a source of information to an unusual degree, the high-ranking official said. He was questioned more than 70 times over the past five years in various investigations, including some in which staff members were trying to confirm that new inmates would be safe at the prison, the official said.

The official said that he thought that prison staff might have been relying on Mr. Geas to help keep the peace in the prison, by controlling his fellow inmates and acting as a so-called shot caller, an inmate who is a sort of group leader in the prison usually for a racial group or gang, with influence and control over other inmates and a working relationship with staff.

It is unclear whether prison staff members tipped Mr. Geas off to Mr. Bulger’s arrival by questioning him ahead of time.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

Follow Danielle Ivory on Twitter: @danielle_ivory.

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105 New York City Inmates Freed in Bail Reform Experiment

When Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights announced in September that it was planning to bail out hundreds of women and teenagers from Rikers Island as part of a national campaign to demonstrate that cash bail discriminates against the poor and minorities, the response from New York City officials was less than enthusiastic.

The mayor, the police commissioner and the city’s district attorneys all said they worried that public safety might be put at risk.

At first blush, those concerns may have been misplaced.

In October, hundreds of volunteers acting on behalf of the advocacy group posted $1.2 million in bail to free 105 people from Rikers Island and other city jails.

Of the 90 who have since had scheduled court appearances, only two failed to show up as of Friday, according to the group. One was rearrested on a nonviolent misdemeanor charge, and the other has stopped responding to a lawyer, according to Wade McMullen, supervising attorney for the group.

Four others who were bailed out also had minor issues. One person missed court because of a medical concern but was able to reach a lawyer who informed the judge, and new bail was set. Three others were quickly rearrested on prior allegations from the police; of those, one was released without bail and two others had bail reset.

Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, declined to identify those who were released, citing privacy concerns, but organizers offered broad details of the group’s initial efforts.

The amount of bail posted ranged from $750 to $100,000. The youngest person bailed out was 16 and the oldest was 62. There were 64 adult women and 41 high school-aged males. Ninety-two percent of those bailed out had been charged with a felony.

“The mass bailout proves that the system is unfair and targets people of color and people living in poverty,” Ms. Kennedy said.

Another goal of the experiment, which is now complete, was to show that New York City might be able to close the dangerous Rikers Island jail complex more quickly than its current 10-year timeline, Ms. Kennedy said. One of the barriers to closing Rikers is cutting the city’s average jail population to 5,000, down from its current average of about 8,000.

New York State law dictates that bail should be designed to ensure that a defendant return to court. Judges are required by law to consider a defendant’s ability to pay bail, but that is not commonly followed. There are certain circumstances under which judges can order defendants held without bail.

Advocates have long called for criminal justice changes such as speedy trial reform and an end to cash bail, but that has often gone nowhere in Albany. After November’s election, the State Senate will be controlled by Democrats who have named criminal justice reform as one of their priorities.

The early results match up with other studies, including a 2017 report from the Vera Institute of Justice that found that out of 99 people released on unsecured bail or partly secured bond, 88 percent returned to court, and only 8 percent were arrested before trial for another felony charge. More than half of those in the study were facing felony charges.

In the New York experiment, more than 1,200 people volunteered to pay bail and a total of $2 million was raised, including 400 people who contributed $100,000 online. More than 100 organizations supported the effort.

The effort involved much more than just paying an individual’s bail. There were re-entry experts and social workers waiting at Rikers Island to meet those released and to immediately connect them with services.

Finding individuals a place to stay and providing them with a cellphone and a two-month unlimited MetroCard proved to be some of the biggest factors in making sure the released could connect with their lawyers. They were sent text messages reminding them of their court dates.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and some city district attorneys have said that they support bail reform, but had preferred that only those facing misdemeanor charges be bailed out by R.F.K. Human Rights.

Natalie Grybauskas, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio, said the mayor believed that “people who don’t pose any danger don’t need to be in jail before trial.”

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Man Charged With Killing ‘Baby Hope’ Dies in Custody

A kitchen worker from Mexico who was accused of committing one of New York City’s most chilling child murders — the 1991 killing of “Baby Hope” — died in custody on Sunday, officials said.

The man, Conrado Juárez, was scheduled to go on trial in March for the murder of 4-year-old Anjélica Castillo, whose small naked body was found stuffed in a picnic cooler that had been left in a wooded area off the Henry Hudson Parkway in Upper Manhattan in 1991.

Mr. Juarez had been awaiting trial for five years. In 2015, he was transferred from Rikers Island to Rockland County Correctional Facility for his own safety. He died early Sunday morning at Montefiore Nyack Hospital following complications related to pancreatic cancer, an official and a second person familiar with the matter said.

Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for the State Commission of Correction, confirmed Mr. Juarez had died. She said the commission was investigating the death.

Mr. Juárez, 57, was arrested in 2013 and charged with second-degree murder. Prosecutors said he suffocated and molested the child.

Mr. Juárez’s lawyer, Michael J. Croce, declined to comment on Monday about his client’s death. A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office also declined to comment.

The murder of “Baby Hope” remained unsolved for more than two decades. No one had reported the child missing and she was unidentified. Detectives gave her the name “Baby Hope” in a show of their commitment to finding her killer.

In 2013, a tip led investigators to identify the child as Anjélica, and they started interviewing her family members. Those conversations led them to Mr. Juárez, a restaurant worker whose sister had been caring for the little girl in Queens when she was murdered.

After a long interrogation, Mr. Juárez eventually confessed on videotape that he sexually assaulted and smothered Anjélica, then disposed of her body in the cooler. The confession was the main evidence against him, and his lawyer, Mr. Croce, argued it was coerced.

Early on in the interview with detectives, Mr. Juárez told the police he had only helped his sister get rid of the toddler’s body after finding the child lying lifeless in his sister’s hallway. Later, he said he had molested her days before she died.

But the lead prosecutor, Melissa Mourges, did not buy Mr. Juarez’s story when she later interviewed him on videotape. “We just want to find out what happened so Angie can rest and we can answer the mystery,” she told him. “We know the sex and the death happened close together.”

Sixteen hours after his arrest and two hours into his videotaped statement, Mr. Juárez said he had suffocated Anjelica with a pillow while sexually assaulting her on a bed in a spare room at his sister’s apartment.

“She was suffocated with a pillow,” Mr. Juárez said in Spanish.

“How did you do it?” asked a Spanish-speaking detective who served as an interpreter.

“I covered her mouth,” he replied.

The videotaped confession was recorded on Oct. 12, 2013, at the Cold Case Squad’s office in Brooklyn and was played publicly during a hearing in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to determine whether the statements would be admitted as evidence at Mr. Juárez’s trial.

Four days after his arrest, Mr. Juarez also spoke with The New York Times reporter Frances Robles. The Manhattan district attorney’s office subpoenaed Ms. Robles to testify at Mr. Juarez’s trial about what he had said, arguing the interview corroborated parts of his confession. After several long delays and a series of challenges, an appeals court in Manhattan ruled last month that Ms. Robles did not have to testify and that her notes were not “critical or necessary” to his prosecution.

During the 45-minute interview at Rikers Island, Mr. Juárez denied killing Anjélica and said investigators had coerced his confession. “I told the police that I put a pillow over her face and killed her,” Mr. Juárez told Ms. Robles in 2013. “But it wasn’t like that.”

He also told Ms. Robles that he had received a call from his sister, Balvina Juárez, who told him Anjélica had fallen down the stairs while running and had died. She asked for his help, Mr. Juárez said.

Mr. Juárez told Ms. Robles that he and his sister folded the child into the blue picnic cooler, flagged down a taxi and rode in silence to a park off the Henry Hudson Parkway in Upper Manhattan, where they left the body.

They never spoke of it again, Mr. Juárez said. Balvina Juárez died from a stroke in 1995.

“I was afraid,” Mr. Juárez told Ms. Robles. “My mind closed. Thinking about it now, I realize I should have called the police.”

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The Whitey Bulger Murder Mystery: Two Assailants and a Prison Full of Suspects

An unusual murder mystery is playing out inside the Hazelton penitentiary in West Virginia.

The prime suspects — inmates — are already locked up. The victim was an aging mobster, someone plenty of people had reason to want dead.

But how James (Whitey) Bulger, the crime boss and law enforcement informant from Boston, came to be murdered just a few hours after arriving at Hazelton is still a puzzle.

Among the questions investigators are trying to answer, according to interviews with more than a dozen Federal Bureau of Prisons employees, lawyers with clients inside and relatives of inmates, are these:

Of at least four men sent to solitary confinement following the attack, which ones beat him to death?

Why was Mr. Bulger, a notorious informant in frail health, placed with other inmates in the general population?

And how did Mr. Bulger come to be transferred to Hazelton to begin with?

Mr. Bulger, who famously yanked the teeth out of his murder victims to thwart identification, was sentenced to life in prison in November 2013, after 16 years on the run and 12 on the F.B.I.’s Ten Most Wanted list.

In September 2014, he was sent to Coleman II, a Federal prison in Central Florida that prison workers say is known as a safe haven of sorts for inmates who might need extra protection, like informants and former gang members.

At Coleman, Mr. Bulger wielded enough influence to have “runners,” other inmates who would sneak him food from the chow hall and snacks from the commissary, prison workers said. The prison employees interviewed for this article asked to remain anonymous because they feared retaliation from the Bureau of Prisons for discussing nonpublic information.

Mr. Bulger’s relatively peaceful time at Coleman ended when he clashed with a female medical worker, refusing some treatment, a prison worker said. In February, Mr. Bulger told the medical worker that her day of reckoning was coming. His punishment, according to prison records, was a month in solitary confinement.

But instead of being returned to his regular cell after a month, he languished in solitary for seven more months. An attempt was made in April to transfer Mr. Bulger to another prison, but it was denied, the records showed. It was not clear who initiated the request. The code listed in the records as the justification for that transfer indicated that he needed hospitalization and treatment.

Prison employees said it was common to punish inmates by transferring them to a different facility. The workers call it “diesel therapy,” after the buses that transport inmates from prison to prison.

Several prison workers speculated that medical transfer codes might have been used in the records to make it easier to move Mr. Bulger. The Boston Globe reported that his medical classification, known as a “care level,” had suddenly been lowered by prison authorities, which would have indicated that his health had improved, perhaps making him eligible to transfer to Hazelton.

On Oct. 8, another transfer request was approved, and on Oct. 29, he was moved to Hazelton. The code that time indicated that he had completed medical treatment.

Mr. Bulger was nearly 90 years old, used a wheelchair, and suffered from heart problems, among other maladies. A lawyer for Mr. Bulger declined to comment on whether he had undergone medical treatment while in solitary.

The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that Mr. Bulger was transferred because he had made “a direct serious threat” against a staff member at Coleman, and not because of a medical reason. It was not clear from the bureau’s statement whether the object of the threat was the medical worker Mr. Bulger had clashed with, or someone else.

When a federal prison wants to transfer an inmate, the move must first receive multiple approvals, and the requests are frequently denied. If prison staff members are trying to get rid of an inmate who has become a nuisance, they will sometimes resubmit the requests with different codes until they are approved, prison workers said.

Once approval is granted, prison workers said, an office in Texas decides which prison the inmate will be shipped to. Then, a number of officials at the original facility — including the inmate’s case manager, the unit secretary, associate wardens and the warden — have to sign off.

When the inmate arrives at the new prison, the staff there, including Special Investigative Services, a group that examines cases of prison misconduct, are supposed to determine whether the inmate needs to be separated from any other prisoners.

Several prison workers questioned why so many people at Coleman and in the Texas office would have approved a transfer of Mr. Bulger to Hazelton, a facility that houses some inmates tied to organized crime and that has a reputation for being dangerous for snitches. The workers also questioned why staff members at Hazelton would have approved placing Mr. Bulger in the prison’s general population. Mr. Bulger was the third inmate to be killed at Hazelton this year.

[Read how staffing shortages have made federal prisons more dangerous.]

“That was a monumental failure,” said one prison worker, “and a death sentence for Whitey.”

The Bureau of Prisons, in its statement, said that Mr. Bulger’s transfer to Hazelton was made in accordance with its policy, including a review of whether inmates known to be a threat to Mr. Bulger were at the prison.

“Based on extensive correctional security observation, (and contrary to published reports), members of crime families are not generally considered to be a threat of harm to one another when placed together in the same federal facility,” the statement said.

But in interviews, prison workers disputed that this would have been the case with a brazen informant like Mr. Bulger, who manipulated the F.B.I. while he betrayed and murdered rivals. Several workers questioned why Mr. Bulger was not immediately placed in solitary at Hazleton for his own protection.

One employee said that murdering a larger-than-life informant like Mr. Bulger would elevate the status of the perpetrators among fellow inmates.

“It puts you on a Jesus level,” he said. “You walk on water for the rest of your sentence.”

Mr. Bulger arrived at Hazelton in the early evening on Oct. 29. According to prison records, he was initially assigned to a cell with Paul J. DeCologero, a member of a Massachusetts organized crime group headed by his uncle, Paul A. DeCologero, that was accused of dismembering a teenage girl in the 1990s.

Two former law enforcement officials — Thomas J. Foley, the retired superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, who led the investigation of Mr. Bulger that resulted in charges in the mid-1990s, and Ed Davis, the former commissioner of the Boston Police Department — said they knew of no rivalry or quarrel between Mr. Bulger’s criminal enterprise and the DeCologero crew.

The cell had been prepared: In the week before the transfer, Mr. DeCologero had been moved from the lower bunk to the upper bunk. But for some reason, about an hour after Mr. Bulger was assigned to the cell, and perhaps before he had even set foot in it, he was reassigned.

His new cellmate was Felix Wilson.

The two prisoners were very different. Mr. Bulger, who terrorized South Boston in the 1970s and ’80s, was serving two life terms for his role in 11 murders. Many families of his victims publicly celebrated the news of his death.

Mr. Wilson, on the other hand, was a 26-year-old man from Portsmouth, N.H., serving a 30-month sentence after he had been stopped for riding his bicycle on the wrong side of the road and the police found a gun, according to court records. He was scheduled to be released next year.

Before he was sentenced, his lawyer told the court that his client suffered from mental health issues and that he had an I.Q. of 82. There is no evidence that Mr. Wilson has ties to any crime family.

Mr. Wilson was assigned to the upper bunk; Mr. Bulger took the lower one.

Mr. Bulger was in the same unit at the prison as Fotios (Freddy) Geas, a mafia hit man from West Springfield, Mass., serving a life sentence for murder. Mr. Geas himself had recently been paired up with a new cellmate, Sean McKinnon, 32, from Montpelier, Vt., who was convicted of stealing firearms and was scheduled to be released in about four years. There is no evidence connecting Mr. McKinnon to any crime family.

Mr. Geas’s lawyer, Daniel D. Kelly, said that his client and Mr. DeCologero did not know each other before they went to prison, and that Mr. Geas and Mr. Bulger had never crossed paths.

On Oct. 30, the morning after the transfer, the cell doors at Hazleton were unlocked as usual at 6 o’clock so that inmates could go to breakfast, according to employees. Two corrections officers were assigned to the area where Mr. Bulger was being housed, the employees said, and on a typical morning, at least one of the officers would have moved away to monitor inmates as they walked through metal detectors on their way to the dining hall.

Sometime between 6 and 8 a.m., when prison staff members made rounds, cameras caught video images of at least two inmates rolling Mr. Bulger into a corner of his cell. He was beaten savagely with a padlock in a sock and was found wrapped in blankets, posed as if he was sleeping.

Mr. Geas, Mr. DeCologero, Mr. McKinnon and Mr. Wilson were whisked to solitary later that day, according to records. Prison workers said that Mr. Geas, whose lawyer has said that he has a particular distaste for people who cooperated with law enforcement, was thought to be part of the group that participated in the beating. It was unclear whether the other three were suspected of having been involved in the beating itself, in planning it or covering it up, or had merely been moved to solitary as a precaution while the investigation proceeds.

Investigators are questioning people at Hazelton and Coleman, employees said. The Federal Bureau of Prisons declined interview requests. In its statement, the bureau spoke of two assailants, and said that one had “no known ties to any crime family.”

“The alleged assailants were not known to be threats nor had any known geographical ties to Bulger,” the bureau said.

But then it introduced another mystery, given that both Mr. Geas and Mr. DeCologero were Massachusetts mobsters. The “documented legal residence of both individuals” suspected of beating Mr. Bulger, the bureau said, “was not Massachusetts.”

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Opinion | Down Under, More Humane Private Prisons

About 35 years ago, America began turning prisons over to the private sector. The idea was that private prisons would be better and cheaper than government-run ones. “The great incentive for us, and we believe the long-term great incentive for the private sector, will be that you will be judged on performance,” Thomas Beasley said on “60 Minutes” in 1984. Mr. Beasley was president of the newly created Corrections Corporation of America.

Today about 9 percent of those behind bars in 28 states and in federal prisons — more than 128,000 people — are in prisons run by the private sector. More than half of all private prison beds are owned by CoreCivic, the new name for Mr. Beasley’s company. In addition to prisoners, about 70 percent of detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody are in private facilities.

But private prisons have turned out to be neither better nor cheaper. They have about the same recidivism rates as their government-run counterparts — nearly 40 percent. And the Government Accountability Office has concluded time and again that there is simply no evidence that private prisons are more cost-effective than public prisons.

Private prisons have come under tremendous political scrutiny because the more people they house, the more they profit. Most corrections contracts with the private sector merely ask the private operator to replicate what the government is doing.

Given how entrenched the private sector is in American corrections, the private prison industry is here to stay. But there are ways to improve these institutions. Currently they are rewarded according to the number of prisoners they house. What if private prison contracts were structured so that they made more money if they treated prisoners humanely with policies that helped them stay out of trouble once released? Prisons exist to lower crime rates. So why not reward private prisons for doing that? Judge them on performance, as Mr. Beasley said.

America doesn’t use performance-based contracts. But Australia and New Zealand are experimenting with these models. Two relatively new private prisons have contracts that give them bonuses for doing better than government prisons at cutting recidivism. They get an even bigger bonus if they beat the government at reducing recidivism among their indigenous populations. And prison companies are charged for what the government deems as unacceptable events like riots, escapes and unnatural deaths.

Although the contracts set specific objectives, they do not dictate how prison operators should achieve them. “If we want to establish a prison that focuses on rehabilitation and reintegration, we have to give the private sector the space to innovate,” said Rachael Cole, a former public-private partnership integration director for the New Zealand Department of Corrections. “If we don’t give them the opportunity to do things differently, we will just get back what we already have.”

I recently visited New Zealand’s Auckland South Corrections Facility, a low-lying yellow and white brick structure in the shadow of the local airport. It houses 970 men and avoids many of the dehumanizing elements typical of prisons. Prisoners are called by their first names instead of by number, and corrections officers are called reintegration officers.

Serco, a British company that operates prisons globally, manages the facility for the New Zealand Department of Corrections under the country’s first public-private prison partnership. Men who follow the rules, complete educational and vocational programs, and keep a positive attitude can move from the more traditional housing units into six-room cottages designed to prepare them for life outside prison. The residences, which house almost a quarter of the prison’s population, resemble dorm-room suites with desks and bookshelves in the bedrooms, carpeted living spaces, couches, windows without bars, microwaves, refrigerators, cooking utensils and a flat-screen TV. The men cook their own meals and do their own laundry.

Even those who live in more conventional cells manage their own affairs through a computer system to schedule family visits, medical appointments and their daily responsibilities. Each prisoner has a résumé and is expected to apply and be interviewed for jobs at the facility. The prison also responds to the job market. Noticing the growth in barista careers, Serco opened two cafes in the prison to provide on-the-job training.

New Zealand’s prison population has soared in recent years, reaching an all-time high of more than 10,600. The country also struggles with racial disparities, with an overrepresentation of Maori — the nation’s indigenous Polynesian people — in their prisons. Maori make up only about 15 percent of the country’s population but half of New Zealand’s prisoners. Aiming to reduce the Maori’s recidivism rate, Serco and its partners worked with indigenous groups to build a cultural center for the Maori prisoners at the Auckland South prison. When I visited, one Maori prisoner, a bald, bearded man dressed in the prison uniform of gray shorts and a burgundy shirt, was cleaning the cultural center to prepare it for a meeting. He said that the center hosts events like the Maori New Year celebration and that family members frequently join.

“The prison is designed for rehabilitation,” said Oliver Brousse, chief executive of the John Laing Investment Group, a member of the consortium that built Auckland South. “The strength of these public-private partnerships is that they bring the best practices and innovation from all over the world, allowing local authorities to benefit from not only private capital but also from the best people and best practices from other countries.”

In Australia, the Ravenhall Correctional Center near Melbourne is a 1,000-bed medium-security facility with 51 buildings spread across six acres. There is no razor wire. The prison is operated by the GEO Group, a global prison firm (with most of its facilities in the United States), under a partnership with the Victoria state government. Men live in five communities in small buildings similar to college dorms. Social workers and other clinicians meet with the men inside the communities; overall, the prison has more than 70 clinical programs. When I visited, a group of men whose good behavior had allowed them to progress to living in four-bedroom suites were making sandwiches for lunch and contemplating stir-fry for dinner.

“What makes Ravenhall different is that I didn’t think of it much as a jail,” said a man named Cameron, who was released in April and now works as a landscaper for Rebuild, a Y.M.C.A. program that trains prisoners in construction work and hires some of them when they leave the prison. “It is a place to be if you really want to change. You had to either be in a program or in education. You can’t just stay in the cottage and do nothing.”

Even the men who haven’t yet made it to these cottages live in more humane quarters than exist in most American prisons. Instead of bars on windows, there is thick glass, providing more natural light and a better view of the outside.

As in New Zealand, indigenous people in Australia are overrepresented in the prison system. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are only 2 percent of the adult population but account for more than a quarter of the incarcerated population. Ravenhall has six staff members who work primarily with indigenous prisoners to reconnect them with their cultural heritage. The programs also help the men to be better fathers and to recover from trauma.

The GEO Group decided that to cut recidivism, it needed to continue working with prisoners once they were out. At the Bridge Center, families meet with social workers to discuss what life could be like when their loved ones leave prison and return home. And those released from Ravenhall can meet with the same clinicians they might have bonded with while incarcerated, work with staff to find housing and in some cases receive vouchers to cover three months’ rent.

These prisons are so new — Ravenhall opened less than a year ago — that we don’t yet know if the system works, but corrections departments in both countries are optimistic. Auckland South opened in 2015, and an evaluation of Auckland South’s initial success in reducing recidivism will likely be released later this year.

If the prisons in Australia and New Zealand prove successful, could a similar approach work in the United States? It would require getting beyond simplistic views of private prisons, recognizing that their failures could be a result of the incentives they receive. And it would involve a leap of faith to allow the private sector some flexibility in how it chooses to reduce recidivism.

“This partnership is about moving away from the prescribed way of doing things,” said Jeremy Lightfoot, deputy chief executive of the New Zealand Department of Corrections, told me in his office in Wellington in July. “This prison is in our network. If it is succeeding, then we are succeeding.”

In America, the government tends to rely on the private sector only when it needs capital. In Australia and New Zealand, governments partnered with private industry to design the contracts themselves and fashion innovative practices to reduce recidivism.

“What you have to realize is that we are human beings as well,” Cameron said. “If you put the boys in the cage and treat the boys like an animal, they will think they are animals. But if you put them in an environment where things are peaceful and they are treated like humans, they can change.”

Reporting for this article was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Lauren-Brooke Eisen is a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at the N.Y.U. School of Law.

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Opinion | The Newest Jim Crow

In the midterms, Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to legalize marijuana, Florida restored the vote to over 1.4 million people with felony convictions, and Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment requiring unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials. These are the latest examples of the astonishing progress that has been made in the last several years on a wide range of criminal justice issues. Since 2010, when I published “The New Jim Crow” — which argued that a system of legal discrimination and segregation had been born again in this country because of the war on drugs and mass incarceration — there have been significant changes to drug policy, sentencing and re-entry, including “ban the box” initiatives aimed at eliminating barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people.

This progress is unquestionably good news, but there are warning signs blinking brightly. Many of the current reform efforts contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control, a system of “e-carceration” that may prove more dangerous and more difficult to challenge than the one we hope to leave behind.

Bail reform is a case in point. Thanks in part to new laws and policies — as well as actions like the mass bailout of inmates in New York City jails that’s underway — the unconscionable practice of cash bail is finally coming to an end. In August, California became the first state to decide to get rid of its cash bail system; last year, New Jersey virtually eliminated the use of money bonds.

But what’s taking the place of cash bail may prove even worse in the long run. In California, a presumption of detention will effectively replace eligibility for immediate release when the new law takes effect in October 2019. And increasingly, computer algorithms are helping to determine who should be caged and who should be set “free.” Freedom — even when it’s granted, it turns out — isn’t really free.

Under new policies in California, New Jersey, New York and beyond, “risk assessment” algorithms recommend to judges whether a person who’s been arrested should be released. These advanced mathematical models — or “weapons of math destruction” as data scientist Cathy O’Neil calls them — appear colorblind on the surface but they are based on factors that are not only highly correlated with race and class, but are also significantly influenced by pervasive bias in the criminal justice system.

As O’Neil explains, “It’s tempting to believe that computers will be neutral and objective, but algorithms are nothing more than opinions embedded in mathematics.”

Challenging these biased algorithms may be more difficult than challenging discrimination by the police, prosecutors and judges. Many algorithms are fiercely guarded corporate secrets. Those that are transparent — you can actually read the code — lack a public audit so it’s impossible to know how much more often they fail for people of color.

Even if you’re lucky enough to be set “free” from a brick-and-mortar jail thanks to a computer algorithm, an expensive monitoring device likely will be shackled to your ankle — a GPS tracking device provided by a private company that may charge you around $300 per month, an involuntary leasing fee. Your permitted zones of movement may make it difficult or impossible to get or keep a job, attend school, care for your kids or visit family members. You’re effectively sentenced to an open-air digital prison, one that may not extend beyond your house, your block or your neighborhood. One false step (or one malfunction of the GPS tracking device) will bring cops to your front door, your workplace, or wherever they find you and snatch you right back to jail.

Who benefits from this? Private corporations. According to a report released last month by the Center for Media Justice, four large corporations — including the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies — have most of the private contracts to provide electronic monitoring for people on parole in some 30 states, giving them a combined annual revenue of more than $200 million just for e-monitoring. Companies that earned millions on contracts to run or serve prisons have, in an era of prison restructuring, begun to shift their business model to add electronic surveillance and monitoring of the same population. Even if old-fashioned prisons fade away, the profit margins of these companies will widen so long as growing numbers of people find themselves subject to perpetual criminalization, surveillance, monitoring and control.

Who loses? Nearly everyone. A recent analysis by a Brookings Institution fellow found that “efforts to reduce recidivism through intensive supervision are not working.” Reducing the requirements and burdens of community supervision, so that people can more easily hold jobs, care for children and escape the stigma of criminality “would be a good first step toward breaking the vicious incarceration cycle,” the report said.

Many reformers rightly point out that an ankle bracelet is preferable to a prison cell. Yet I find it difficult to call this progress. As I see it, digital prisons are to mass incarceration what Jim Crow was to slavery.

If you asked slaves if they would rather live with their families and raise their own children, albeit subject to “whites only signs,” legal discrimination and Jim Crow segregation, they’d almost certainly say: I’ll take Jim Crow. By the same token, if you ask prisoners whether they’d rather live with their families and raise their children, albeit with nearly constant digital surveillance and monitoring, they’d almost certainly say: I’ll take the electronic monitor. I would too. But hopefully we can now see that Jim Crow was a less restrictive form of racial and social control, not a real alternative to racial caste systems. Similarly, if the goal is to end mass incarceration and mass criminalization, digital prisons are not an answer. They’re just another way of posing the question.

Some insist that e-carceration is “a step in the right direction.” But where are we going with this? A growing number of scholars and activists predict that “e-gentrification” is where we’re headed as entire communities become trapped in digital prisons that keep them locked out of neighborhoods where jobs and opportunity can be found.

If that scenario sounds far-fetched, keep in mind that mass incarceration itself was unimaginable just 40 years ago and that it was born partly out of well-intentioned reforms — chief among them mandatory sentencing laws that liberal proponents predicted would reduce racial disparities in sentencing. While those laws may have looked good on paper, they were passed within a political climate that was overwhelmingly hostile and punitive toward poor people and people of color, resulting in a prison-building boom, an increase in racial and class disparities in sentencing, and a quintupling of the incarcerated population.

Fortunately, a growing number of advocates are organizing to ensure that important reforms, such as ending cash bail, are not replaced with systems that view poor people and people of color as little more than commodities to be bought, sold, evaluated and managed for profit. In July, more than 100 civil rights, faith, labor, legal and data science groups released a shared statement of concerns regarding the use of pretrial risk assessment instruments; numerous bail reform groups, such as Chicago Community Bond Fund, actively oppose the expansion of e-carceration.

If our goal is not a better system of mass criminalization, but instead the creation of safe, caring, thriving communities, then we ought to be heavily investing in quality schools, job creation, drug treatment and mental health care in the least advantaged communities rather than pouring billions into their high-tech management and control. Fifty years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned that “when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” We failed to heed his warning back then. Will we make a different choice today?

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Michelle Alexander became a New York Times columnist in 2018. She is a civil rights lawyer and advocate, legal scholar and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” 

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