Female correction officers detail hostile work conditions at Rikers Island

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, October 25, 2021
Female correction officers detail hostile conditions at Rikers
There are allegations of sexual assaults and harassment of female correction officers at Rikers Island.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- There are allegations of sexual assaults and harassment of female correction officers by inmates at Rikers Island.

Since the first of the year, 24 officers have been sexually assaulted -- most of them women.

City Council Member Adrienne Adams and union leaders (COBA) detailed examples of a hostile work environment during a news conference Monday.

Female officers involved in the allegations say the assault and harassment happen on a daily basis.

Eyewitness News is not revealing the identity of one correction officer who described on the phone how she fought for her life after a male detainee pulled her into a pantry and began to strangle her.

"I had one hand under the sweater that was around my neck so I could have an air passageway so I could still be able to breathe and not knock out," she said. "Every time I was fighting and gaining a little bit of wind, he kept turning and turning the sleeves and making it tighter."

She still works at the trouble-plagued facility and the seven-year veteran insists that what happened to her is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other female correction officers are saying enough is enough.

According to their union, since January 1, detainees have sexually assaulted 24 DOC employees -- 17 officers of which 16 are women, one captain and the rest were civilian employees.

RELATED | NY Assembly holds hearing on deteriorating conditions at Rikers Island

The New York state Assembly held a hearing Friday on the conditions at Rikers Island amid dangerous and worsening conditions at the troubled jail.

Councilmember Adrienne Adams wants the state to make forcible touching a felony instead of a misdemeanor and impose stricter penalties when it comes to making lewd gestures and comments.

"These increased penalties will send a clear message that sexual assault and abuse of correction officers are unacceptable and will have serious consequences," Adams said.

As for the officer that spoke with Eyewitness News, she did ask to be transferred to a job that had no contact with detainees, but was instead simply assigned to a female unit.

Her attacker was sentenced to seven years behind bars, followed by probation. But still, there's one thing she still can't get out of her mind.

"My daughter was about to turn 3, five days from then, I knew I couldn't die right there, I knew I had to get out," she said.

Out of the 24 cases, only 13 perpetrators were re-arrested, and just six resulted in an indictment.

RELATED | Rikers Island officers 'scared to go back to work' amid spike in violence

Inside Rikers Island, there's an increase in violence, and it's not just attacks amongst inmates. Assaults against corrections officers are up by 23%.


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