barbed wire on top of a prison wall

A Culture of Sexual Violence in Women’s Prisons

Despite numerous lawsuits and reports detailing rampant sexual abuse of women in prison, the problem continues unabated. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the 539 corrections officers and prison staff involved in 508 substantiated sexual abuse claims, only 36 percent were recommended for prosecution. This culture of sexual violence must be stopped.

How Widespread is the Problem?

To have a better understanding of how deep this culture of prison sexual violence runs, take a look at some extremely alarming statistics regarding sexual abuse in women's prisons:

  • Thecountry's fourth-largest female prison population is located in New York (only to be exceeded by Florida, California and Texas).
  • 70 percent of corrections officers are male in federal women's correctional facilities.
  • In 2004, in all but one U.S. state prison (and in 41 percent of local and private prisons), allegations of sexual misconduct were made against corrections officers.
  • 3 out of 11 U.S. correctional facilities with the highest rates of sexual abuse perpetrated by prison staff were in New York in 2009.
  • At least 7 women's correctional facilities in New York have allowed sexual abuse by staff members to run rampant spanning decades.
    • Bayview Correctional Facility
    • Albion Correctional Facility
    • Taconic and Bedford Hills Correctional Facilities
    • Lakeview Shock Incarceration Center
    • Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC), Riker's Island
    • Beacon Correctional Facility
    • Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC New York)

How Can This Happen?

Correctional officers and prison staff dictate every portion of an inmate's life while behind bars. Because of this, women prisoners are left powerless. The abusers use this power imbalance to their advantage and subject women inmates to extreme levels of humiliation and abuse. This can include watching them undress, inappropriate body searches, sexual assault, rape, etc.

If a victim should attempt to speak out, they are almost always met with retaliation and subjugated via fear tactics to keep them silenced. For instance, abusers have been known to use a victim's personal history file (to which they have full access), review any complaints or allegations that may have been made against them and threaten the victim with such things as decreased recreation time or even limited visitation hours with loved ones. This is largely why, although there are figures reporting how vast the issue of staff-on-woman inmate sexual violence is, the actual number of instances of sexual violence may be much more significant than it seems.

Unfortunately, even if a victim is able to speak out and make their allegations heard, correctional officers and prison staff often operate with a heightened level of impunity. Due to such measures as the Prison Litigation Reform Act (which makes it more difficult for prisoners to file lawsuits by allowing correctional facilities to address the issue before litigation) and typical government immunities, victims' attempts at justice are swiftly swept under the rug.

What is Being Done to Help Sexual Abuse Survivors?

In early 2022, the Adult Survivors Act was signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hochul. This law will allow survivors of past sexual offenses to bring new civil actions against their abusers, whereas they may have been previously barred due to the statute of limitations. Read our blog about the Adult Survivors Act for more.

How Levy Konigsberg is Protecting the Rights of and Advocating for Adult Survivors

At Levy Konigsberg, we are committed to advocating for survivors and protecting their rights as they are pitted against large institutions. Our attorneys have the skill, knowledge and experience necessary to help you obtain your rightful justice. With compassion, understanding, respect and poise, we expect not only to achieve the best possible outcome for you but for all survivors of sexual abuse.

Call us today at (800) 315-3806 or fill out our form online to schedule a free initial consultation.

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