These jailbirds are proving that crime does pay.
Rikers Island inmates are soaking city taxpayers by suing over everything from slippery shower floors to beds they claim are too short, a Post analysis has found.
Legal claims against the Department of Correction have resulted in $111.1 million in payouts over the past five years — including settlements of “frivolous” cases that would have cost more to fight in court.
Sources said the situation is “out of control,” with a growing network of prisoners sharing the names of lawyers and even scrawling the attorneys’ contact info near the jail’s pay phones.
“Once the lawsuit is created, even if it’s nonsense, they still get paid — and most of them are nonsense,” a Rikers source said.
“They know the city will investigate and say it’s not worth going to court. They’ll offer $2,000 to squash it, and the lawyer will tell the inmate, ‘It’s a bulls–t case, but they’re offering $2,000 — you should take it.’ ”
Zaie Escribano, locked up for allegedly firing on two cops in The Bronx, is seeking unspecified damages over claims he slipped and fell in a Rikers shower in May 2011 because a “stopped-up” drain created a puddle on the floor, court documents show.
“Does it surprise you that he’s suing the city, given his background?” asked Detective Robert Salerno, one of the cops Escribano allegedly shot at in 2009.
Statistics show Correction was sued nearly 8,500 times between fiscal years 2007 and 2011.
The city Law Department couldn’t say how many suits were filed by inmates, but noted that baseless suits were a big problem.
“Inmates who bring frivolous lawsuits and their attorneys waste city taxpayer dollars,” a spokeswoman said. “They unfortunately require us to deploy valuable public resources to investigate and defend the city.”
In 2011, $35 million went to settle a suit alleging 100,000 prisoners were illegally strip-searched.
One inmate whose own suit scored him a settlement is the alleged ringleader of a gang busted in the 2010 anti-gay torture of two teens and a 30-year-old man in an abandoned Bronx building.
Idelfonso Mendez sued after breaking his wrist in a Correction bus accident. The city paid $32,500 to keep the case from trial.
Inmate Jamel Williams, who last year was sentenced to 18 years’ prison for the robbery and murder of a DVD seller in Midtown, claims in a suit that his arm was burned by water a guard handed him in the dining hall.
Bronx lawyer Michael Ridge, who represents Williams and Escribano, declined to comment.
Another lawyer said he gets calls from prisoners almost daily.
“All it takes is for one guy to get a good result from a lawyer, and they pass the [lawyer’s] number along because they got $10,000 from the city,” the Bronx lawyer said.
“It’s totally word of mouth.”