Legal Aid and Cleary Gottlieb File Federal Lawsuit For Women Inmates Raped and Sexually Abused at Rikers
TUESDAY, MAY 19, 2015

The Legal Aid Society and the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP today filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of their clients, women who seek an injunction requiring the City of New York and the Department of Correction (DOC) to take all steps necessary to prevent women in its custody at Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC), the women’s jail at Rikers Island, from being raped and sexually abused by correction officers.

Plaintiffs also ask the Court to order the City to formulate a comprehensive plan to remedy the pattern of sexual victimization at RMSC and seek damages against a correction officer who repeatedly raped and sexually abused them.

The lawsuit charges that correction officers are allowed to exploit the authority of their position to repeatedly rape women in their care. The City has failed to protect women who report rape and sexual abuse from retaliation by correction officers by giving the officers a free hand to retaliate against these women. This retaliation includes placing them in punitive segregation based on false disciplinary charges, threats and other verbal abuse, deprivation of food for extended periods of time, and refusing to permit women to bathe. “Sexual violence is at record proportions in DOC, and rape and other sexual abuse of women are endemic at the Rose M. Singer Center, the women’s jail at Rikers, “ said Seymour W. James, the Attorney-in-Charge of The Legal Aid Society. “ According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), RMSC is one of the twelve worst jails in the country regarding rates of staff sexual misconduct. Nationwide, 3.2% of jail inmates reported sexual victimization, but at RMSC the rate was 8.6%, and sexual victimization rates were higher at RMSC than at the other Rikers jails in the survey. According to the DOJ survey, approximately 5.9% of RMSC inmates reported sexual abuse by staff.”

Lawyers handling the case for The Legal Aid Society include William Gibney, Marlen Bodden, and Barbara Hamilton. Lawyers handling the case for Cleary Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, LLP include Mitchell Lowenthal, Sarah Edwards, Sue Guan, Elizabeth Hanly, Jacob Johnston, Sean Mullen, and Tiffany Tam.