In April 2023, renowned law firm Levy Konigsberg’s sexual abuse attorneys officially filed a legal action against the New York City Department of Corrections (NYC DOC), alleging that the institution allowed severe acts of sexual abuse at the Rose M. Singer Center (Rosie’s or RMSC) on Rikers Island.
The law firm announced that the facility’s correctional officers are being sued by ten women under the New York Adult Survivors Act. With more survivors expected to reveal their harrowing narratives, questions still remain in the hearts of the perplexed public.
What happened to what once was considered New York’s “state-of-the-art jail for women” in the 1980s? What went wrong at an institution named in honor of a beloved champion of women’s rights and welfare?
This article will discuss a brief history of the facility, the nature of the allegations, the current lawsuits against it, the consequences of prisoners’ abuse and the legal actions that could be explored against the center.
Suffering sexual abuse at the hands of state staff who have sworn a sacred oath to protect you is one of the most horrendous experiences, and on a federal level, the government has tried to implement preventive measures against such misconduct.
In fact, in 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed, aimed at analyzing the status of sexual assault crimes committed in prison and offering support services to inmates.
The 20-year-old law established the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission to develop standards for responding to and preventing instances of sexual assault in prisons.
It also provided tools for support services like the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE). Moreover, Just Detention International is also a great resource center, as it’s a health and human rights organization that fights to end sexual abuse in detention.
As for the allegations against Rose M. Singer Center specifically, Levy Konigsberg said the recent lawsuits that its lawyers filed are “just the beginning.”
“In the coming months, we are expected to file at least 100 more such cases against New York City. The sexual abuses at Rosie’s are widespread, pervasive, and likely ongoing, but we are committed to giving sex abuse survivors a fair chance at justice and compensation,” the law firm said.
The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that for too long, incidents of sexual abuse against incarcerated persons have not been taken as seriously as sexual abuse outside prison walls.
“In popular culture, prison rape is often the subject of jokes; in public discourse, it has been at times dismissed by some as an inevitable—or even deserved— consequence of criminality.”
“But sexual abuse is never a laughing matter, nor is it punishment for a crime,” the department said.
So, if you or someone you know is planning to pursue a legal action against a correctional facility in New York for past abuses, it’s highly crucial to consider that the state’s ‘lookback window’ closes on November 24, 2023.
Remember, filing a case requires preparing the necessary documents, formulating sound arguments, gathering evidence, and laborious legal research, among others.
Since there is an added pressure of limited time and resources, hiring proper legal representation would greatly aid you in your quest for justice.
The center was named after Rose M. Singer, who was an original member of the New York City Board of Correction. According to the city’s archives, it opened its doors in June 1988, and at the time, it featured a modern 25-bed nursery and job training programs in horticulture, sewing and culinary arts.
During Singer’s esteemed years of public service, her particular interests have been women’s issues, children and teenage programs. She reportedly devoted most of her professional life to improving the New York City jail system.
Singer was described as a humanitarian who has advanced the concerns of women for over 45 years, and she once said that she “hoped that the center will be a place of hope and renewal for all the women” that would be housed there.
Now, it seems like a cruel twist of fate that the Rose M. Singer Center is plagued with decades-long reports of incarcerated women who suffered severe forms of sexual abuse and attacks.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, has defined “prisoner rape” as any act of sexual violence committed against an inmate. The perpetrator may be another inmate, or they may be a staff member who works for the prison, jail, or detention facility.
Additionally, under New York law, Levy Konigsberg explained that prisoners cannot consent to sexual actions with any correctional employee or volunteer who provides inmate services “due to an inherent power and authority disparity.”
Essentially, the abuser cannot argue “consent” as a legal defense when put to trial. Thus, it is “always illegal” for an officer or staff member to engage in sexual contact with an inmate, the firm said.
The abuse allegations committed by Rose M. Singer Center’s staff, officers, and administrators include:
- Attempts to cover up incidents of sexual abuse
- Inappropriate pat frisks
- Retaliatory threats for reporting a rape
- Sexual assault from multiple assailants
- Sexual degrading or humiliation
- Sexual harassment
- Stalking, leering, or acting as a “peeping Tom”
Levy Konigsberg published a timeline of the center’s history of inmate sexual abuse, which included:
2012: Rose M. Singer Center was named by the Department of Justice as “one of the least safe female correctional facilities in the country” due to an extremely high rate of reported sexual assaults.
2017: New York City agreed to pay a $1.2 million settlement to two former Rose M. Singer Center inmates who were sexually assaulted by a male guard.
2018: The city once again settled to pay $425,000 to a female inmate who was sexually abused by Officers Steven Santiago, David Johnson, and Nana Osei. She reportedly participated in an undercover sting operation to expose the offenders.
February 2019: The city agreed to pay a $500,000 settlement to a female inmate who was raped by Office Jose Cosme, who pled guilty to felony criminal sex charges. Subsequently, a related administrative trial resulted in the firing of Officer Leonard McNeill in 2022, who pressured the said inmate to remain silent and not report the crime.
July 2019: The city paid a $1.2 million settlement to an inmate who was violently raped by three male guards. According to court records, the decision specifically stated that the Rose M. Singer Center has twice the national average for reported sexual abuses carried out by correction officers.
The law firm announced in April 2023 that the New York City Department of Corrections (NYC DOC) is named as the defendant in the ten lawsuits filed against the center’s culture of abuse.
The ten women’s complaints alleged that the state’s staff “would know when and where sexual assaults were going to occur, exactly what types of abuses would be carried out, and which staff members would be involved.”
With documented evidence of the sex crimes, the women said that any effort “to report and prevent such sexual attacks would be ignored or intentionally hidden.”
Moreover, the law firm also said it possessed evidence that showed Rose M. Singer Center as an “unsafe and lawless” correctional facility, citing a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Justice, which said it was “among the 12 worst prisons in the country due to its exorbitantly high rates of staff sexual misconduct and abuse.”
However, despite the federal government’s alarming revelations about the institution’s dangerous conditions and risks, inmate safety and security were still not prioritized as “next to nothing was done to protect the inmates or punish and remove the offenders,” the law firm said.
In a media statement, Levy Konigsberg’s Attorney Anna Kull explained: “The exploitation of power by correctional officers at Rose M. Singer Center, the all-female jail on Rikers Island, New York, is well known and well documented.”
“New York City Department of Corrections is aware of the significant risk and prevalence of sexual coercion of women in custody, but it nonetheless permits a culture of systemic rape and other sexual abuse of women by correction officers to persist,” she said.
“The City’s policies, practices, and lack of faithful investigations have enabled and encouraged widespread sexual misconduct. The Adult Survivors Act is critical in allowing these survivors of sexual assault to seek justice for the irreparable harm they have suffered,” Kull added.
Mayfair Legal Funding Can Help Fund Your Settlement
At Mayfair Legal Funding, we believe that every person has the right to a dignified and respectful life, whether you’re free to move or serving time.
We support the prisoner sexual abuse survivors in fighting for their rights, as well as others who have suffered the heavy cost of systemic failures.
If you are one of the inmates who experienced sexual abuse at Rose M. Singer Center or at any correctional facility, and you would like to pursue your claim, we’re here to provide you with the financial assistance you need.
The New York’s Adult Survivors Act, signed in May 2022, created a one-year “lookback window” for survivors of sexual assault that occurred when they were over the age of 18 to sue their abusers regardless of when the abuse occurred.
The rationale of the law ponders on the psychological warfare felt by many survivors, where they may take years to come to terms with the trauma of the sexual assault and feel ready to seek justice against an abuser while also experiencing fear of retaliation or shame.
According to NY Governor Hochul’s press release, the one-year window will allow survivors to sue regardless of the statute of limitations.
This means that, even if you or someone you know was sexually abused decades ago, the state has allowed you or any survivor to file a claim against the abusers up until the window closes on November 24, 2023.
The urgency of acting now cannot be overemphasized enough, so finding a competent and trustworthy lawyer is essential to pursue a legal claim against Rose M. Singer Center at the earliest opportunity.
Tragically, the struggles and horrors faced by the inmates of Rose M. Singer Center are not isolated cases. There have been countless reports across the country of correctional facilities subjecting prisoners to abusive conduct and maltreatment.
An example would be Albion Correctional Facility, a prison located in upstate New York. Levy Konigsberg has also filed a legal action against it on behalf of the inmates who suffered within its walls.
Much like in Rose M. Singer Center, sexual abuse has also been allegedly carried out by staff members at Albion for decades and is continuing, with numerous reports of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape.
It should be noted that in 2015, a former female Albion inmate was awarded $605,750 in damages for sexual attacks by a guard in 2007, the law firm reported.
Moreover, the federal court awarded her an additional $500,000 in damages. The officer who committed the rape was also imprisoned.
RAINN reported about the devastating effects of sexual assault, which include:
- Depression: A mood disorder that occurs when feelings associated with sadness and hopelessness continue for long periods of time and interrupt regular thought patterns. It can affect your behavior and your relationship with other people.
- Dissociation: This is detachment from reality. Most professionals believe that dissociation exists on a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum is an experience like daydreaming. At the other end is chronic and complex dissociation, which may make it difficult for an individual to function in the “real” world.
- Eating Disorders: Sexual violence can affect survivors in many ways, including perceptions of the body and feelings of control.
- Flashbacks: During a flashback, memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment.
- Panic Attacks: A sudden feeling of intense fear and anxiety that happens in situations when there may be no immediate danger. They tend to affect people who have experienced trauma, abuse, or high levels of stress.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterward.
- Pregnancy: Survivors who were raped without any form of contraception may have concerns about becoming pregnant from the attack.
- Sleep Disorders: Symptoms of sleep disorders can include trouble falling or staying asleep, sleeping at unusual times of day, or sleeping for longer or shorter than usual.
- Self-Harm: Deliberate self-harm, or self-injury, is when a person inflicts physical harm on himself or herself, usually in secret.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections: A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is a bacterial or viral infection passed from one person to another through vaginal, anal, or oral contact.
- Substance Abuse: Some survivors report using substances like alcohol and drugs. A few of these reasons include wanting to feel better or trying to numb or escape the pain.
- Suicide or Suicidal Thoughts: When survivors are in deep crisis and trapped in extended periods of hopelessness, they may experience these thoughts. It’s important to note that help is always out there. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255) or 911.
Our team of professionals will accommodate you with the utmost confidentiality. Together, we can discuss your case and determine if pre-settlement funding is the right solution for you.