RIKERS IS THE WORST PLACE IN AMERICA TO BE RAPED: 0% CLOSING RATE FOR 2017 SEXUAL ASSAULT ALLEGATIONS

There are other serious inefficiencies in the March 14 DOC Sexual Victimization report published on May 14, 2018, that is incomplete and eight months late.

  • For starters: We don’t know the breakdown of sexual assault vs. sexual harassment. –Or numbers of substantiations.
  • The department has a 0% closing rate for 2017: the first year PREA was allegedly implemented by the department. The one person single-handedly responsible for overseeing PREA implementation was Commissioner Brann

During a December 14, 2015 City Council Hearing on Women’s Issues on Rikers Island the Deputy Commissioner Cynthia Brann was questioned by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and by Public Advocate Letitia James about the rape crisis on Rikers and the implementation of PREA or the Prison Rape Elimination Act standards into the DOC charter.  At that time then Deputy Commish Brann said of PREA that was her specific responsibility:

We have received federal grant money to implement PREA standards within the agency.  So becoming PREA compliant is a process.  The act was passed in 2003. The original grant was received in 2012.  We began earnestly this past year in securing the Moss Group and we have a plan over the next two years to be able to implement PREA across the agency and have our agency go through audits to become PREA compliant”

Watch her testimony here:

https://youtu.be/fCMEo4yOfYk

Now watch Brann’s testimony two years later during September 2017 BOC meeting where she says of her failure to protect our city’s most vulnerable: “Sometimes we get it right, and Sometimes We Don’t”: 

https://youtu.be/ds1Fz9VZpOQ

  • There has been to date no revised calendar for implementation offered or explanation for lack of responsibility by the department, the BOC or the mayor’s office.  Commissioner Cynthia Brann tried to explain the behemoth failing to implement PREA, which was her specific project before being named acting Commish, during the Sept 2017 BOC hearing when she literally said: “sometimes we get things right and sometimes…we don’t.” (HEY MARISKA WE DON’T HAVE RAPE RIGHT IN NEW YORK YET).
  • The department has taken pains to break down numbers for what it calls “non-PREA” and “fabricated” complaints but has not applied this same reporting rigor to the most important data we need: closing rates, substantiation reports, broken down rape, sexual assault, harassment, facility, days investigation remains open, how many rape kits given? Tested and on and on.
  • The department has broken down the number of complaints made by people the they deem to be incredulous and repeat-complainers:
    • 25% of caseload 542 made by same 53 inmates
      • 2015 14 inmates represented 22% of 2015 caseload
      • 2016 17 for 181 allegations
      • 2017 16 inmates for 269 allegation 23% of caseload
      • 2018 18 inmates of 123 allegation: 34% of 2018 caseload
  • This statement has been repeated again and again from DOC leadership: allegedly ‘unstable’ detainees are making false complaints is the party line from the DOC. Former Warden Michelle Clifford tried to make this same accusation in December 2015 RIGHT HERE IN A NYC Council hearing presided over by former CM Crowley and PA Tish James and we reminded her that people already deemed unreliable are the ones targeted by predators because they KNOW they can get away with it. I have personal experience with this. I urge this committee to first make sure that the DOC first implements its assessment and review team (mandated by the PREA rule voted in in November of 2016) before doing-away wholesale with these 542 complaints made by the “same 53 inmates” (DOC’s words.)
  • Finally: this backlog has caused a chilling effect on complainants. Initially we saw a swelling of complaints as word made it into Rosie’s and other jails on the island the department was being mandated to take complaints seriously: but literally Rikers is the worst place in America to be raped. A 0% closing rate for investigations is a crisis of epic proportions for a department just handed a blank check to fix the problem eighteen months ago.
  • Don’t let the department boondoggle our politicians and members of the Board of Correction into thinking there is some sort of paperwork juggernaut that accounts for the 0% closing rate: they were given plenty of money in the budget to hire people to implement PREA and to do the paperwork. The rule mandates staffing, reporting etc. which they are still very behind on, as well as referrals to outside care when they are released, a staffing plan and on and on.
  • The department last week trying to blame one of the PREA rules: 5-39 (“Sexual Abuse Incident Reviews”) which required that by January 1, 2017:  “DOC shall conduct a sexual incident review at the conclusion of every sexual abuse investigation in accordance with subdivisions (a) through (e) of this section.” Etc. for the backlog in closings in rape and SA investigations. How difficult can the paperwork be? These people have been raped? What about that isn’t more difficult than paperwork?
  •  Posted  on this page is a document of all the available information we have from the DOC about stats form the DOC from the past decade.

Curbing sexual violence and setting up transparent and streamlined complaint and investigative processes that give survivors a sense that justice is being served is fundamental to creating stability in any population The one thing we all share as humans of New York is our choice in how we express ourselves sexually. In cages this is mitigated. We are most vulnerable to sexual conscription when we are not in our comfort zone—when things aren’t familiar—when basic services are not available to us—. If people can’t be guaranteed that they won’t be violated and touched and maimed and exploited than your population will be at constant unrest. We act differently when under stress and I don’t understand why PREA keeps getting shelved and no one is holding the department accountable for missing its own self-imposed reporting deadlines by years—not months—years.  We need to start to try to give our detained population a chance to feel safe and that their voices matter.