Female Prisoners File Suit Against New York Over Investigations of Sexual Assault by Guards

New York’s Legal Aid Society recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of 15 female inmates against the state of New York over how investigations into alleged sexual assaults by guards against female prisoners are investigated.

At issue is the state’s Department of Correctional Service policy that will not apparently not initiate an investigation into claims of such sexual assaults based solely on allegations made by prisoners. Women’s ENews quoted Dori Lewis of The Legal Aid Society as saying,

As Department of Correctional Services regulations exist now, an inmate’s word is not enough to convince authorities to investigate allegations of sexual abuse. Nor is the word of a second inmate. A Department of Correctional Services guard or staff person has to come forward and corroborate the story, and you can imagine how often that happens.

Otis cites as an example of this sort of policy the case of Lucy Amador, 42, who was imprisoned in New York for robbery. Otis reports that Amador sent letters to correctional services officials and even the governor of New York alleging that a guard was routinely sexual abusing her. Only when the guard left a small semen stain on the Amador’s shirt sleeve were the allegations investigated, however, and the guard subsequently fired and prosecuted. (Ironically, Amador herself was convicted of bank robbing on a similar oversight — she posed as a loan applicant before robbing a bank of $10,000. When she fled the bank, she left behind a loan application which gave her real name, address, and other details — apparently she was willing to steal from the bank but not lie on the loan application!)

Named in the lawsuit are 10 guards whom the 15 plaintiffs claim sexually assaulted them, as well as several correction officials whom the lawsuit maintains helped cover up the assaults. The lawsuit asks for monetary damages as well as an overhaul of how the corrections department investigates alleged sexual assaults by guards.

Sources:

Female prisoners sue state for guards’ sex abuse. Ginger Adams Otis, Women’s ENews, March 17, 2003.

Women Sue State Prison Guards. New York Newsday, Graham Rayman, January 29, 2003.

Prison rapes ‘routine.’ Joanne Wasserman, New York Daily News, January 28, 2003.

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