Of the more than 2,500 lawsuits filed under a special New York law, nearly 20% allege sexual violence against current or former prisoners at the infamous Rikers Island facilities. New York’s Adult Survivors Act allowed survivors of sexual assault one year to sue no matter how long ago the alleged abuse happened. This has led to 479 lawsuits against New York City over alleged abuse at Rikers, a surge of litigation that may finally give many victims a chance at justice, legal experts and advocates say, NBC reports. “There have been high rates of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization in New York state prisons,” attorney Anna Kull said. Kull said she has filed hundreds of civil cases related to reports of assault behind bars under the Adult Survivors Act. “How do I have over 200 women who were sexually abused at Rikers? This is a systemic failure,” she said. “It requires comprehensive reform and you’re never going to see comprehensive reform without accountability.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the act in May 2022, to amend state law and allow survivors of sexual violence who were over 18 at the time of the alleged abuse to sue the people they have accused regardless of the original statute of limitations. The act expired on Nov. 24, but not before a swath of lawsuits against celebrities such as Sean “Diddy” Combs and Jamie Foxx and politicians such as New York City Mayor Eric Adams and former President Donald Trump made headlines. There has been little fanfare, however, over the Rikers cases. Kull said she finds the number of lawsuits stemming from the jail to be staggering, but not surprising considering Rikers’ reputation as “one of the most dangerous prisons in the United States,” a sentiment shared by advocates supporting survivors of sexual violence.