NEW YORK — Inmates viciously beat a fellow Rikers Island jail detainee for days as correction officers ignored what was going on, a man alleged from the prison ward of a hospital.
Tyrefe Kelly said his living nightmare began on Jan. 7. In an exclusive interview with PIX11 News, he detailed the attack, saying his mentally and spiritually broken.
“They beat me. They spread my legs apart, they kicked me in my testicles, they kicked in my rectum,” he said. “I went unconscious. When I finally came to and woke up, I didn’t have no eyebrows. I didn’t have no hair. I could barely breathe.”
Kelly has been in jail since April after he was arrested for an attempted murder in Brooklyn. He denied the charges, saying he was incarcerated in Pennsylvania at the time of the shooting. Kelly, who is a known gang member, said he was moved into a new Rikers Island housing unit earlier this month with members from a rival crew.
After the first day of beatings, Kelly said he tried to get the attention of a correction officer
“I was trying to flag him down and he just put two manila envelopes on the bubble and went back to sleep,” Kelly said.
Ilya Novofastovsky, Kelly’s lawyer, said the officers “essentially let the inmates run the floor.”
“I understand that Rikers was short staffed,” Novofastovsky said. “The guards retreated back to their little room hideaway bunker.”
It wasn’t until the third day when Kelly said he was finally able to get help. Shia Fields, his aunt, said other inmates helped Kelly get attention.
“He almost lost his life on Rikers Island,” she said.
Kelly is recovering with a punctured lung, broken ribs and ruptured scrotum.
The Department of Correction referred PIX11 News to Correctional Health Services when asked about the attack.
“As soon as CHS is made aware of an injury, we provide timely and appropriate care, including initiating a hospital transfer, if medically necessary,” a CHS spokesperson said.
Concerns over the conditions inside Rikers Island have risen in recent days.
New surveillance videos from inside the jail surfaced, showing inmate fight clubs.
“There’s a picture of him being humiliated on the internet of him being unconscious with his head shoved inside of a toilet bowl,” Fields said about Kelly.
Jail reform advocates stood at the bridge to Rikers Thursday in solidarity with the inmates who are now on what they’ve described as a hunger strike. A DOC spokesperson denied there’s a hunger strike.
“There is no ‘hunger strike’ and there never was one,” a spokesperson said. “A group of detainees were refusing institutional food while eating commissary meals the whole time. The warden engaged with them and they resumed eating from the kitchen two days ago.”
Mayor Eric Adams said his new jails commissioner is working on a plan to create a safer Rikers.
As for Kelly, he still has several surgeries to go. He’s due back in court on Feb. 3.
New York Times investigative reporter Jan Ransom, who’s been following the Rikers crisis closely, spoke with the PIX11 Morning News about what’s going on: