Legal Aid Society

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LAS: Women Transferred From Rikers Report Threats, Assault

Jane-Roberte Sampeur, staff attorney and coordinator with The Legal Aid Society’s Women’s Pretrial Release Initiative, recently testified before the City Council on the damaging effects of the City’s ongoing transfer of women from Rikers Island to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in upstate New York, as reported by the New York Daily News.

Despite a petition signed by over 125 women detained at the Rose M Singer facility on Rikers, the Mayor and Governor have continued the upstate transfers, an action further that traumatizes individuals by disrupting their treatment and support systems.

Sampeur testified to a process she describes as “haphazardly and poorly planned.” She has not been given notice when a client is going to be transferred and said that often the women themselves have no prior notice and are given five minutes to pack.

Women who have been transferred to Bedford Hills report that they have been threatened by correction officers, and in at least one case physically assaulted.

“Several women have reported being threatened by correction officers who are telling them things like, ‘You are in State custody now. No one is going to hear you,’” Sampeur said. Another correction officer told women “they would be beaten, placed in a solitary housing unit, beaten again and left naked until he felt like releasing them.”

The client who was assaulted was held in solitary confinement for several days and was not able to contact her family or attorney during that time.

Legal Aid continues to call for decarceration rather than transfer. Moving women further from their support networks, families, and legal teams, does not make them safer, and does not address the crisis in City Jails. The only way to ensure the safety of women and the community is to ensure women are with their families, their support networks and connected to community-based therapeutic services.