New documents reveal a scathing culture if impunity among DOC staff at Rose M. Singer Women’s Center on Rikers where sexual abuse is significantly higher than at other jails across the country.
New York Daily News
Victims of Rikers Guard Accused of Sexually Assaulting Two inmates Claim He Gave Them Cash and Drugs for Sex
By Stephen Rex Brown
April 20, 2017
A correction officer at Rikers Island accused of sexually assaulting two female inmates paid them contraband and cash, according to new documents.
The details represented the first time the inmates — known only as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 — had described how Officer Benny Santiago allegedly assaulted them at the Rose M. Singer Center women’s jail.
The two inmates sued the city and Santiago in 2015.
“I was shocked as hell,” Jane Doe 2 recalled after Santiago allegedly first propositioned her in 2013. “But after I got over that shock, I asked him what he was going to give me for it. ... Like what do you want and I said $100 and he was like OK.”
Later, Santiago took her to a vacant cell and gave her money for the encounter, Jane Doe 2 recalled.
“He was like you ready? I'm like, you ready? You got the money?" she said.
He paid her in $20 bills, she said.
Jane Doe 2 is herself a registered sex offender for pleading guilty to sex trafficking. She's also been convicted of embezzlement and larceny.
Jane Doe 1 testified that in exchange for sex, Santiago gave her marijuana stashed in a pink balloon. Following other encounters, she said he gave her tobacco. She sold the contraband to other inmates during stints in Rikers between 2006 and 2012.
During one alleged encounter, Santiago tapped her on the shoulder and ordered her to the day room, she said.
He "told me to assume the position. I assumed the position. He rough-handled me, choked me, grabbed my hair,” she said of the sex assault.
Jane Doe 1 pleaded guilty to robbery in connection to a 2011 murder.
Both plaintiffs claim they suffered PTSD as a result of the encounters.
State and federal laws define sexual contact between an inmate and jail staff as criminal, regardless of consent.
The depositions were included in a scathing report by an expert hired by the Legal Aid Society, which is representing the two women.
The report by Timothy Ryan, who has served as administrator of four of the 20 largest jails in the U.S., declared that female inmates at Rikers are afforded so few protections when making claims of sexual abuse by jail staff that the city is in violation of state law and federal standards.
“Because of the city’s inadequate practices, RMSC has a culture of impunity where female detainees are sexually abused and raped at significantly higher levels than at other jails in America, and where the staff sexual abusers can be nearly assured of a mismanaged investigation without realistic fear of any sort of punishment or discipline," Ryan reported.
Santiago remains an employee of the Department of Correction.
"DOC has a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual abuse, and there is no place at DOC for the mistreatment of any inmate," a DOC spokesperson said.
The department has trained thousands of officers and spent millions of dollars in its drive to become compliant with new federal guidelines, said spokeswoman Eve Kessler.
Jail officials created a new investigations division specifically designed and trained to respond to sexual allegations in a private setting, she added.
This article originally appeared in the New York Daily News.