Assistance with Sexual Abuse is Hard to find in New York’s Largest Jail

New York ­– Rikers Island is a place where inmates are housed. A recent report has shown that continuous sexual harassment and abuse has occurred over the years, and the outlets for help were unable to provide the necessary assistance inside the jail.

According to The Associated Press, the emergency hotlines were unreliable. Some calls were allegedly directed to personal landlines of individuals in the community. Another approach inmates tried to receive help were confidentially written complaints. The private complaints managed to land in the hands of other inmates who read the complaint out loud. An internal review revealed that individuals accused of abuse were not interviewed under investigation.

A year ago, a report administered by an outside consultant regarding the sexual abuse that most employees underrated, disclosed that the guards’ perspective on the sexual abuse was no match to the actual issue. The sexual abuse was dangerous. It appears that the guards couldn’t control or stop the sexual abuse. Many individuals were too busy engaging in personal misconduct that displayed “poor professional boundaries.” They were allegedly responsible for “inappropriately hugging and kissing” amongst each other and posting indecent images in the common rooms.

Management discovered the ongoing issue as they proceeded to implement the “new city rules” in reference to a “zero tolerance sexual assault policy” that will be aligned with the Prison Rape Elimination Act for additional protection.

A few unidentified staff members or inmates claimed the upcoming change was only a myth. A change “did not appear to be occurring” after they allegedly overheard the federal law and other detailed requirements. According to the City Correction Department spokeswoman, the wake up call put the entire department to work. Their new goal is to alleviate the individuals affected by the sexual abuse from their troubles.

The jail officials stated that a department wide coordinator had been assigned, the standards on sexual assault were updated in the form of a 43 page directive, and the guards and internal investigators were thoroughly trained. The updated sexual assault directive, “a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse,” was created to protect inmates from sexual abuse through a several procedures that cover “preventing, detecting, and responding” to incidents involving sexual abuse towards inmates.

The directive also includes a portion for the employees. It covers hiring and training obligations as well as techniques to help them understand, identify, report, and investigate sexual abuse, especially for vulnerable inmates.

Is Sexual Abuse a Quick Fix?

No, sexual abuse is not a quick fix, especially after it has been going on for far too long. A federally funded report displays that the sexual abuse issues on Rikers Island might be difficult to fix. There may be some truth to this statement but if everyone lends a helping hand to assist the major change, the impossible becomes possible.

One of the members on the jail board stated, “As long as we are going to have prisons we are going to have sexual abuse in prisons. That’s reality. That’s what happens.” An individual who analyze sexual harassment or sexual abuse as expected and acceptable, then label the misconduct as a problem that cannot be fixed, hinders the growth of transitioning into a better work environment and home to inmates.

The jail officials could begin to transition the poor safety on Rikers Island by fixing the broken phone lines and creating a secure way for inmates to file a sexual harassment or abuse complaints. According to the report, a partnership has been developed with Safe Horizons, a national non-profit, that accepts allegation reports and offers counseling.

Past cases displayed that the jail officials failed to demonstrate proper protocol regarding a solution for sexual abuse on behalf of former victims of sexual harassment or abuse. The new law should change this poor procedure. According to a law professor, Brenda Smith, “the problems at Rikers appeared to be fixable only by wholesale culture change.” As soon as the laws are enforced, and the consequences are thoroughly explained to the jail officials, a change shall come.

If you have ever been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual abuse in New York City, Miami, New Jersey, or Philadelphia, contact us at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation. Our sexual harassment attorneys are skilled in employment law and prepared to help you find a solution for your case.

About Derek Smith

Attorney Derek T. Smith is an experienced sexual harassment & discrimination law litigator who has particular experience in the areas of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, civil rights litigation, employment law and civil litigation.

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