Jane Doe(s) v. City of New York; Benny Santiago: Pervasive Culture of Sexual Violence

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Jane Doe(s) v. City of New York & Benny Santiago is a lawsuit filed on behalf of two women alleging repeated acts of rape and other sexual abuse during their incarcerations at RMSC.

  • Correction Officer (CO) Santiago is one of at least eight COs accused of sexual misconduct.
  • Despite reporting of the rapes to a mental health clinician, jail physician and City investigators, CO Santiago is still employed by the NYC Department of Correction (DOC) on “modified duty.”
  • According to the 39-page complaint, CO Santiago sexually assaulted Jane Doe 1 “as many as four times a week” and punished her with anal rape and threats to her family if she resisted. “Santiago allegedly knew where Jane Doe 1’s mother lived, and would park his car outside her home, observe Jane Doe 1’s family, and later report his observations to Jane Doe 1 – reminding her to ‘make the right decision,’ and implicitly threatening her family.” CO “Santiago also kept Jane Doe 1 from resisting or reporting his sexual abuse by threatening that after she was released, she would live with him, keep his house clean and ‘never go anywhere.””
  • When CO Santiago suspected Jane Doe 2 of reporting him, he and other COs threatened and harassed her, twice refused to feed her for over 24 hours, prohibited her from bathing for days at a time, and confined her to her cell and placed her in punitive segregation without justification—all as retaliation for reporting CO Santiago’s criminal sexual acts.

Recent News Items About the Case:

Two Rikers Inmates Accuse Guard of Repeated Rapes,

Female Prisoners at Rikers Appeal Denial of Class Status, January 29, 2016

NYC Must Allow Rikers Inmates Alleging Sex Abuse to Remain Anonymous

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  1. Read the entire Jane Doe vs. Benny Santiago and NYC et al complaint filed 5.19.15: (contains sexually graphic and disturbing content):
  2. Read the Declaration in support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification and Appointment of Class Counsel  filed by NYC Public Advocate Letitia James on 10.09.16:
  3. Read the amicus Brief filed by various NYC Council members and Public Advocate Letitia James here encouraging Hon. Judge Hellerstein to reconsider his decision denying the Jane Does their class status filed on 1.15.16. 

DOC’s policies and practices promulgate the pervasive culture of sexual violence on Rikers Island, the complaint states, as evidenced by the following:

  • “Supervisory officers and staff facilitate this rape and other sexual abuse by making predictable rounds and otherwise failing meaningfully to oversee COs.”
  • “The City facilitates this rape and other sexual abuse by permitting supervisory officers and staff to operate in the manner alleged herein, by failing to monitor (through cameras or otherwise) known at-risk areas and even by failing to post signs throughout RMSC stating it
    is a crime…for any NYC DOC employee to rape or sexually abuse any inmate.”
  • “The City remained indifferent to the culture of rape and other sexual abuse at Rikers even after Jane Doe 2 reported Santiago’s sexual misconduct. Rather than taking prompt steps to investigate and punish Santiago, the City instead both continued to employ Santiago at Rikers and treated Jane Doe 2 as an adversary, refusing all requests for information about its investigation of her allegations.”

Rape awareness rally3

 

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO TRY TO STAVE THE CRISIS?

Natalie Block-Levin at Anti-Rape Rally on Steps of City Hall December 14, 2016

Natalie Block-Levin at Anti-Rape Rally on Steps of City Hall December 14, 2016

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MORE BACKGROUND:

Picture of 12 Women Who Were Molested by NYC Corrections Officers During Jail Visits

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PREA RESOURCES:

Elizabeth Crowley DOC ARE UNPREPARED FOR COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON WOMEN’S ISSUES

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NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL HEARINGS REF: PREA IMPLEMENTATION OR SEXUAL ASSAULT/RAPE IN NYC JAILS:

  • 12.15.15: OVERSIGHT HEARING: “Examining the Unique Issues Facing Women in City Jails.”
  • 3.10.16: PRELIMINARY BUDGET OVERSIGHT HEARING During this hearing Commissioner Ponte of the NYC Department of Correction testified that:
  •   Ponte testified that DOC has increased its applicant investigation unit and  employee vetting.
  •   PREA was raised.
  •   Ponte testified that the law was passed in 2003, but became effective for DOC in 2012?
  •  DOC was given a grant for PREA and now have a contract with the Moss Group.
  •  DOC is working towards PREA compliance in several facilities.
  •  It was a long ways to even begin the PREA process.
  • DOC did not put in its budget additional training for staff.
  •  In 2010 and 2011 they were 4 cases referred to the DA’s office for prosecution for sex abuse at Rikers.
  • There are 3 cases pending at the administrative level for staff discipline for sex abuse.
  • All sex abuse cases where there are serious allegations are referred to the D.A.’s office.
  •  Some are sent back to DOI for administrative investigation, if the DA does not have enough proof.
  •  4 staff members have left DOC employment because of allegations they were sexually abusing inmates.
  •  In 5 facilities with the most consistent complaints of sexual abuse, DOC has placed investigative teams.
  • DOC has placed an integrity control unit in RMSC.
  • There are 3 DOC facilities that will be under a PREA audit by the fall. RMSC, RNDC, and MDC.
  • Is staff allowed near inmates if there are inmate accusations of sex abuse? Ponte testified that, it depends on the accusation.
  • CO will be placed on modified duty pending the results of an investigation.
  • Sex abuse allegations go to the DA and then back to DOC for administrative investigation.
  •  Crowley pressed DOC about multiple allegations against the same officer.
  •  Ponte testified that is unusual if it is true. And he was unsure of that decision.
  •  In the future serious allegations or multiple allegations will result in modified duty where the DOC staff member is precluded from inmate contact.

Read more on the pervasive culture of rape at Rikers