Two female inmates of Rikers Island prison in New York City have sued a corrections officer at the prison and the city, claiming that they were raped repeatedly by the official and the city did not act to prevent this, CNN reported late Thursday. The suit comes months after federal prosecutors joined a civil rights lawsuit against the city for the use of excessive force by corrections officers on inmates at Rikers.
The lawsuit reportedly alleged that the city, with its inaction, sanctioned the rape of female inmates by officers at the all-female Rose M. Singer Center jail complex. The suit also provided details of serial rape by eight correctional officers, including a case in which the inmate became pregnant, CNN reported. The rapes were reported to a mental health care officer and later to a doctor with the City Department of Investigation by one of the plaintiffs, who was only identified as Jane Doe 2, the lawsuit stated, adding that the plaintiff was told that nothing could be done.
"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 suit stated, according to CNN.
The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in federal court, named the accused officer as Benny Santiago. The plaintiffs reportedly claimed in the suit that Santiago’s actions were “open and notorious," but other officers in the center did not report him, adding that he implicitly threatened his victims. The plaintiffs, who are represented by The Legal Aid Society, are seeking damages from Santiago.
According to CNN, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections said the office could not comment on pending litigation, but added: "DOC 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."
According to a 2012 Department of Justice survey, which was cited in Tuesday's suit, 5.9 percent of inmates at the Rose M. Singer Center said they were sexually abused by facility staff.
"Sexual violence is at record proportions in DOC, and rape and other sexual abuse of women are endemic at the Rose M. Singer Center," Seymour W. James, attorney-in-chief of The Legal Aid Society, said, according to CNN.