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Home » News » New York State » Female officers say they have been subject to more sexual harassment, assault since HALT Act was enacted in New York

Female officers say they have been subject to more sexual harassment, assault since HALT Act was enacted in New York

Female officers at correctional facilities have reported an increase in sexual assault and harassment since the implementation of the HALT Act, which repealed prolonged solitary confinement. They are urging for stronger workplace protections and stricter penalties for inmates assaulting correction officers.

Assemblyman David Weprin has sponsored legislation to establish the crime of forcible touching of a prison officer and increase criminal penalties for employee sexual assault, garnering support from both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers.

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano called for sexual assault of a correction officer to be elevated to felony status.

“We have a dangerous staffing, violence, security and safety crisis going on inside our state and city correctional facilities,” said Palmesano. “It is long overdue for the state Legislature to pass this common-sense legislation (A.1606/S.5506) that would make sexual assault against a correction officer a felony. Currently, it is only a misdemeanor to sexually assault a correction officer. This is abhorrent, completely unacceptable and must be corrected immediately. Sexual assault in the workplace should not be tolerated.”

He noted there’s a growing number of women in the field, too.

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“We have a growing number of female correction officers in our state. In fact, over 40% of our brave correction officers working on Rikers Island in New York City are women and these dedicated female employees have seen a rise in sexual assaults committed against them by incarcerated individuals. Unfortunately, these brave and dedicated women must go to work every day not knowing if they will be harassed or assaulted by an inmate. We heard courageous stories today from several brave correction officers who have been sexually assaulted by inmates, and I want to thank each one of them for bravely sharing their stories so the Legislature can see the women who are victims of these violent acts,” he added.

However, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins hesitates to endorse amendments to the law, emphasizing the need for a multipronged approach to address prison system issues, including increased investments in mental health treatment.

Although prison officials attribute the rise in violence to the HALT Act and an increase in contraband drugs, data from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision indicates that segregated confinement is still prevalent in the state’s prison system. The recently adopted state budget incorporates measures to address prison violence, such as funding for body-scanning equipment to prevent contraband smuggling.

Categories: New York StateNews