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Female inmates were repeatedly raped by N.Y. prison guard, suit says

"In the face of repeated warnings, the City of New York has enabled a culture of complacency to perpetuate at Rikers Island and thereby consented to the abuse of women in its custody," the lawsuit says.

By
Doug G. Ware
Two female inmates at Rikers Island in New York City have sued a prison guard and the City of New York over claims of repeated sexual abuse and a pervasive culture of rape. File Photo: OFFFSTOCK / ShutterStock
Two female inmates at Rikers Island in New York City have sued a prison guard and the City of New York over claims of repeated sexual abuse and a "pervasive culture of rape." File Photo: OFFFSTOCK / ShutterStock

RIKERS ISLAND CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, N.Y., May 21 (UPI) -- The City of New York is being sued by two female inmates at its Rikers Island correctional facility who claim a prison guard repeatedly raped them -- while city and prison officials looked the other way.

The class action suit was filed Tuesday in federal court and lists the City of New York and one specific prison guard as the defendants.

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In the lawsuit, the women say the named officer relentlessly abused them sexually inside the prison's all-female Rose M. Singer Center -- a facility recently listed among the nation's jails that have the highest rates of sexual misconduct against inmates by officers.

The suit also alleges sexual abuse by several other officers and detail various incidents, including one in which an inmate became pregnant and another in which the victim was dragged into a janitor's closet, CNN reported.

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According to the court documents, the rapes were at the very least reported to a mental health clinician and a doctor -- but the women were told on each occasion that nothing could be done about the guards' abuse.

The suit also alleges incidents of retaliation and threats when a guard learned that a victim attempted to blow the whistle on him. Rikers Island, the suit says, fosters a "pervasive culture of rape."

"I can get you set up. I can get you (expletive) up," one of the guards allegedly said.

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One of the women claims in the suit that one guard even got extremely jealous if she looked another male guard in the eye, the New York Daily News reported.

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"This abuse is only possible because, in the face of repeated warnings, the City of New York has enabled a culture of complacency to perpetuate at Rikers Island and thereby consented to the abuse of women in its custody," the lawsuit says.

The Department of Corrections declined to comment on the case, but said it has "a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual abuse and assault, and there is no place at DOC for the mistreatment of any inmate."

The victims, with the aid of the Legal Aid Society, are seeking damages and hoping the suit will lead to an overhaul of the correctional system.

"Sexual violence is at record proportions in DOC, and rape and other sexual abuse of women are endemic at the Rose M. Singer Center," Legal Aid Society attorney-in-chief Seymour W. James said.

Rikers Island, located in the Bronx, is one of the world's largest correctional institutions and employs about 9,000 officers and 1,500 other workers.

In December, a civil rights lawsuit was filed against the prison, alleging numerous incidents of excessive use of force by officers against inmates.

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