A view of the entrance to Rikers Island penitentiary complex in New York City

Female inmates at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City are accusing seven correction officers of repeated rape and sexual abuse over a two-year period in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Legal Aid Society, NBC New York reports.

Two of those inmates who were in pretrial custody claim that they were “repeatedly raped and sexually abused” by one officer who threatened them with reprisal if they resisted or reported him, the lawsuit says.


An attorney with the group said that there is evidence to back up the allegations, including, in one case, an inmate’s pregnancy. In another case, an inmate said that an officer molested her in front of others, but the officer was not terminated until he was arrested for smuggling marijuana into the jail.

“We are seeking an injunction requiring the city and the Department of Correction to take all necessary steps to prevent women in their custody from being raped and sexually abused by correction officers,” attorney William Gibney said, according to the news site.

One officer was specifically named in the lawsuit and has since been placed on modified duty that cuts off interaction with inmates. However, the New York City Department of Correction would not comment on the lawsuit, citing pending litigation. 


The lawsuit claims that the sexual attacks took place in the Rose M. Singer Center at Rikers, which specifically houses female inmates. The incidents took place during 2013 and 2014, and some cases, the women said, were immediately reported after they happened. Those who blew the whistle, however, were often punished.

One woman claimed that she was put into “punitive segregation” and that other inmates were allegedly paid to beat up any woman who reported the assaults.

As NBC New York notes, in a 2013 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics survey, 5.9 percent of female inmates housed in the Rose M. Singer Center said that they were assaulted by staff, a particularly high percentage in comparison with the national average of 1.8 percent for all jails.


Read more at NBC New York.