Daily, guards sexually abuse women at New York City’s Rikers Island jails. Even if, as recommended by the Lippman Commission, those jails are torn down and replaced, that will take at least 10 years. Reforms are needed now.
Only women are housed in Rikers Island’s Rose M. Singer Center jail. Yet, men guard them. This practice is condemned by a clear consensus of corrections experts. One leading expert (Tim Ryan), who recently submitted a report in a lawsuit brought by two women who said they were repeatedly raped by an RMSC guard, explained that, for years, nationally accepted corrections practices have prohibited female inmates from being supervised by male guards—unless female guards accompany them. That rule is also mandated by New York law and the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). RMSC thus operates in a recklessly dangerous—and illegal—manner. Not surprisingly, staff-on-inmate sexual abuse at RMSC is astoundingly high; according to a 2013 DOJ study, 5.9 percent of inmates annually reported being sexually abused by guards; three times the national average. With 6,600 women housed at RMSC each year, that is more than one act of sexual abuse every day.
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