Legal claims believed to total in the thousands are piling up against New York state's prison system over prison officers' alleged sexual abuse of inmates, a litigation flood enabled by a one-year suspension of the statute of limitations on such cases, the Buffalo News reports. A single Manhattan-based law firm, Levy Konigsberg LLP, is handling more than 500 cases statewide, including nearly 150 cases filed or pending that claim abuse occurred in western New York prisons. Several other law firms also are handling a high volume of cases. Most of the western New York cases claim sexual abuse occurred at Albion Correctional Facility in Orleans County, a medium-security facility for female prisoners. A number also were filed by former inmates at Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, a minimum-security boot camp-style prison in Chautauqua County for young, nonviolent offenders.
Levy Konigsberg’s lead attorney on the prison sexual abuse cases, Anna Kull, said the high volume of claims puts the prison system under new scrutiny. “When you have this many women coming forward, you’re alleging that it’s a systemic problem,” Kull said. “You’re implicating everyone that’s in charge and responsible. Because if you have this many claims, how can you be running a secure and controlled environment?” Kull said the cases have led to a “mind-blowing” revelation: that women who have never met, in prison years apart, are identifying the same assailant. According to court records, two corrections officers who have served at Albion have been named as sexual abusers in multiple women’s lawsuits. At least two women have filed lawsuits claiming abuse was committed by the same male officer at Lakeview. “These women don’t know each other,” Kull said. “They have nothing in common other than having been incarcerated in the State of New York at some point in time. So we’re talking about legitimately systemic issues.” The lawsuits, filed in the state Court of Claims, were enabled by the Adult Survivors Act, a law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022. On Nov. 24, a one-year window opened during which survivors of sexual assault, who were over 18 when abuse occurred, could file civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages, even if the statute of limitations had expired.