New York lawmakers' decision to grant a one-time opportunity to sue over long-ago sexual abuse in state facilities will produce a flood of lawsuits from formerly incarcerated women against their prison guards when the law takes effect next week, the New York Times reports. Lawyers who have advertised the opportunity in a search for victims say they expect at least 750 individual civil lawsuits to be filed on behalf of incarcerated women, more than they anticipated. “Once we recognized the overwhelming number of survivors, we decided to reach out in different ways — and the response has been pretty unbelievable,” said Adam Slater, whose firm Slater Slater and Schulman are taking many of the cases.
Starting Nov. 24, the state's Adult Survivors Act allows people an opportunity to file civil suits long after the statute of limitations for most criminal cases expired. The money would come out of the $220 billion state budget. The State Corrections Department has a long history of sexual abuse inside its prisons, with the Justice Department investigating allegations since the early 1980s. Some of the suits the Slater firm plans to file under the Adult Survivors Act will also be against cities and counties and their jails, including Rikers Island in New York City. Ben Crump, a prominent civil-rights attorney who represented the families of Black victims of police violence, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, has partnered with Slater Slater and Schulman to litigate some of the suits. One Slater client, Jacqueline Wiggins, 58, says a guard raped her at Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan about 30 years ago when she was serving time. She said she has tried to push his face out of her mind for years. “I suppressed it," Wiggins said. "I kept it down in my gut. I didn’t think I was worthy. I didn’t think anyone would care.” After seeing an advertisement by Slater Slater and Schulman, she decided to sue.