At New York City’s floating hellhole of a jail, Rikers Island, abuse of inmates is common, while legal action against alleged perpetrators is exceedingly rare.
Authorities told the New York Times that New York City correction officer Jose Cosme was indicted on rape charges on Friday.
According to the Bronx district attorney Darcel Clark’s office and NYC’s Department of Investigation, Cosme raped an inmate at the Rose M. Singer Center, which jails Rikers Island’s female population, in November 2015. Officials told the Times that Cosme engaged in further sex acts with women who were incarcerated at the time, and therefore not legally able to consent.
DoI commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement that this case is, “part of a larger set of investigations on the issue that we are undertaking.”
In March, Clark created a prosecution bureau intended to eventually employ 30 assistant district attorneys working full-time on complaints coming out of Rikers Island.
Medical staff at Rikers reported during a city council hearing in May that there have been 118 incidents of alleged sexual harassment or assault against inmates at Rikers so far this year. Those are only the incidents that have been reported to the jail’s health providers. A staggering 70% of the sexual assault allegations involved Rikers staff.
By comparison, the total number of sexual victimization incidents reported in 2014 was 114.
As of last year, the rate of alleged sex crimes against Rikers’ female inmate population was at 8.6 percent, according to NYC Public Advocate Letitia James.
The city’s Board of Correction, a public check on the Department of Correction, proposed a series of new rules in June to address institutionalized sexual violence at Rikers. These rules include a requirement that the DoC provide victims with emergency medical and mental health services, and provide all inmates with instructions on how to report their assaults.
However, as the Village Voice notes, many of the rules have dramatically staggered timelines for implementation—many won’t be put into practice until 2017 or even 2018.
The sluggish pace of implementation is in keeping with the jail’s management’s general malaise (or “incompetence,” “willful neglect”) when it comes to addressing sexual assault within its walls.
According to the BoC, of the 294 sexual abuse allegations reported between 2013 and 2015, only five were substantiated.
In June, a member of the BoC, Gerard Bryant, said at a hearing that, “As long as we are going to have prisons we are going to have sexual abuse in prisons. That’s the reality. That’s what happens.”
So, start by shutting down Rikers.