NYC Council proposal would upgrade charges for groping, harassing correction officers
Veteran CO Keisha Williams pressed for the measure with help from other female union board members
By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Groping a city correction officer would add more time to a prisoner’s sentence under a bill to be proposed Thursday by a Queens city councilwoman.
Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, a Democrat, wants to raise the charge of forcible touching where a correction officer is the victim from a misdemeanor to a felony punishable by more than one year in prison.
“Our correction officers, especially women, continue to face reprehensible acts of sexual assault and harassment in our city’s jails, often without consequences. This violence is completely unacceptable and cannot continue,” Adams said.
The proposal also backs upgrading aggravated sexual harassment when a correction officer is the victim to a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
If the Council approves the measure, it would lend weight to a bill introduced recently in the state Legislature by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) that would change the state’s penal law along the same lines.
“It’s a problem at Rikers, and it may be problem elsewhere,” Weprin said. “It’s another deterrent for incarcerated individuals who may not be worried about the consequences.”
Keisha Williams, a 21-year veteran correction officer, said the trauma from these incidents can be overwhelming and support from the Correction Department is often absent.
“Women are subjected to these men that are using them as sexual prey, to sit there and masturbate, to sit there and abuse us mentally, touching us,” said Williams, who is a Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association board member.
She pressed for Adams’ measure with help from other union board members Ashaki Antoine and Antoinette Anderson.
“This culture has been going on so long behind these gates. When a woman tries to report it, it’s not taken seriously,” Williams said. “If they aren’t going to do anything about it, the feeling is why report it?”
More than half of city correction officers are female. Correction sources said that since Jan. 1 there have been 31 cases of sexual assault ranging from forcible touching to more serious offenses. Twenty-two of the victims were officers, including 20 women.
Sixteen of the 31 suspects were rearrested, but just eight cases resulted in an indictment, the sources said.
A spokeswoman for the city Correction Department said the department supports Adams’ idea, and that it is seeking ways to provide more help to employees who encounter sexual trauma on the job.
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