Lawsuits Expose Riker’s Island Culture of Rape of New York Female Inmates

Lawsuits Expose Riker’s Island Culture of Rape of New York Female Inmates

#MeToo is sweeping the country. Recently, more powerful men have been removed from their positions, most notably Les Moonves, the chairman and CEO of CBS, and Jeff Fager, the former chairman of CBS News and the producer of the network’s prestigious “60 Minutes.”

However, for all the attention the anti-sexual assault movement has gathered, it doesn’t appear to have trickled down into the less elite classes. Those women are still at risk, and not enough men are being held accountable.  

In a lawsuit filed in late August 2018, a former New York City inmate alleges that she was raped by corrections officers while imprisoned at the city’s notorious Riker’s Island, and accuses officials of tolerating a “culture of systemic rape.”

Unfortunately, Jane Doe’s story, as she is named in the court papers, is just another example of a longtime issue at the women’s jail.

New York’s Riker’s Island is One of the World’s Most Dangerous Jails

Riker’s Island, which sits on over 400 acres in the East River between Queens and the Bronx, is one of the largest jail facilities in the world, generally housing approximately 11,000 inmates at any time. Nine thousand staff and 1,500 civilians work there year round.

It’s not just the largest, but also among the most dangerous jails for inmates and staff alike. While crime in New York City has decreased so much that Mayor Bill DeBlasio has discussed closing Rikers within the next decade, violent crime within the jail complex has increased considerably in recent years.

Riker’s History of Guards’ Rape, Abuse, Lawsuits, and Settlements

In 2017, the city settled a lawsuit brought by two inmates with a similar tale. The women claimed they were repeatedly raped by a guard while at Riker’s Island. The amount of the settlement was not released. These women, who filed their lawsuit in May 2015, also alleged that there was a “pervasive culture” of sexual abuse at the jail.

The women tried to certify a class action that would include all women who have been assaulted by guards or might be assaulted in the future. In January 2016, a judge ruled the women could purs’ue their claims individually, but not in a class action.

Life in Rosie’s – 10% Inmates Victims of Sexual Misconduct by Staff

The women’s jail at Rikers is nicknamed Rosie’s, but there is nothing rosy about it. A recent survey by the Justice Department found that 50 out of 800 women in the jail are the victims of sexual misconduct by staff at any time. Many of the inmates must stay at Riker’s because they can’t afford bail.

While some of the women consent to have sex with guards or others to receive favors or other reasons, such contact is considered rape under the laws of New York State. In fact, Jane Doe, who filed her late August 2018, lawsuit, admits that she had sex with one of her victimizers consensually, but by law it was rape.

Many of the female inmates arrive at Rikers with a history of sexual abuse victimization, so more victimization by guards reinforces a life pattern.

Multiple Victims’ Rapes Coverup Exposed in Recent Riker’s Lawsuit

One young woman recalls trading sex with an older corrections officer, “CO”, in exchange for money which she could use at the commissary to buy much-needed deodorant and soap. The relationship continued, with the CO bringing her gifts, including drugs.

After a time, the CO tired of her, and a confrontation ensued in which he struck and choked her, then raped her in a tiny closet. She reported him, and he locked her in a cell for the day, depriving her of food.

It turned out another inmate reported him for similar behavior. These were the two women who would eventually file the lawsuit in May 2015. During the discovery process, the women’s lawyers found that the Rikers’ investigation into the women’s accusations bordered between shoddy and a coverup.

They also found that two other women had made similar complaints against the guard, but no further action as taken.

In the end, although a settlement was reached, the guard was not terminated. He was, however, moved to a facility overseeing male inmates. At Rikers Island, that apparently passes for justice for rapists.  

If you or a loved one are a victim of sexual assault at Riker’s, or any New York or U.S. jail or prison, we can help. We file federal civil rights lawsuits to stop the conduct and get financial compensation for victims’ emotional and physical pain and suffering.  Call Us at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online.


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