A new report by the Jails Action Coalition states that Rikers Island guards have been avoiding cameras by taking visitors into bathrooms, where they sexually abuse the visitors with strip searches and cavity searches.
The report was released ahead of a Board of Correction meeting and said that the cameras installed in 2016 hadn’t stopped the sexual abuse. In fact, five women filed notices of claim saying that they had been abused when they came to visit loved ones at the prison.
“I was in shock”
Ms. K, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, was visiting her boyfriend in February 2017 when she was abused, In Justice Today reported.
“I went inside the bathroom and they told me to sign a piece of paper,” she said. “And they told me that sheet of paper is to consent for a search.”
Five officers went with her to the bathroom, where they had her expose her breasts to a female officer to search her bra. She also unbuttoned her pants so her underwear could be searched.
“If you could imagine giving someone a handshake,” Ms. K said, “like how you push your hand up and down? She put her hand in my pants and rammed it up against my vagina. Then she went around and pulled my underwear up and gave me a wedgie on my genitals. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was in shock.”
After the search, she was told she couldn’t even visit her boyfriend, because his unit was on lockdown that day.
These searches violate policy
“These women are being completely violated,” New York personal injury attorney Alan Figman told In Justice Today. “And in some cases it’s because they’re being retaliated against for something the inmate has [allegedly] done. According to New York City corrections protocols, these strip searches are expressly forbidden. The consent forms that the women are signing are for a pat and frisk search, which means you’re not supposed to expose any part of your body.”
Department of Correction spokesperson Peter Thorne responded to the report, saying, “In order to balance safety with wellbeing, DOC must take security measures that will help reduce the introduction of contraband, measures which strictly prohibit body cavity or strip searches. The Department has taken steps to ensure that all visitors are treated with respect, and we have made it easier for visitors to file complaints and have installed cameras in the search areas for greater transparency. We take all visitor complaints seriously.”