Next Monday, April 4, SRLP is thrilled to be joining survivors, loved ones of survivors and advocates in the beginning of a campaign to address sexual violence and sexual harassment in the NYC jails.
Around this time last year SRLP, along with other allied organizations and New York City’s Public Advocate Letitia James, submitted comments to the NYC Board of Correction on the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The NYC Board of Correction has oversight of the City jails and the power to make rules regarding how the jails operate. At the moment there are currently no enforceable Board Standards to protect incarcerated individuals from sexual violence and sexual harassment while in Department of Correction (DOC) custody. At the most recent Board meeting it was announced that the Board intends to issue draft regulations by May 2016.
Transgender women and gender non-conforming people held in the men’s jails are subjected to especially high rates of sexual violence. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project has provided legal services to 40 transgender and gender non-conforming people who spent time in the NYC jails since August 2015. Every single one of these individuals experienced sexual violence of some sort while held in jail. Of these 40 individuals, close to 92% reported experiencing rape.
These numbers speak to the pervasive nature of sexual violence in the NYC jails. According to the Department of Justice, nationwide 3.2% of incarcerated individuals reported sexual violence – at the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC), the jail on Rikers Island that houses individuals identified as women, the rate was 8.6%. Yet, the Department of Correction is not reporting on the numbers of incidents and allegations of sexual violence filed and investigated over the past few years. Video clips from a recent hearing confirm that sexual violence within the NYC jails is not readily known by Department of Correction staff.
SRLP knows that the only way to end sexual violence in prisons and jails is to not put people into prisons and jails. As we build towards that day we must make the current conditions that our loved ones are held in more in line with community standards. Amongst many other demands this means appropriate medical and mental health responses that are culturally competent and not placing people into isolated or solitary confinement due to their “vulnerable” identity.
Please join SRLP at a Jails Action Coalition meeting devoted to the topic of identifying and advocating for appropriate Board Standards on eliminating rape and other sexual abuse in our jails. This meeting will be Monday, April 4, 2016, 6:00 p.m. at the Legal Aid Society, 199 Water Street, New York, NY 10038. If you are interested in supporting these efforts but unable to attend the meeting you can sign up for the Jails Action Coalition listserv where you can receive updates and more information.