Union for COs says female officers facing increased sexual harassment from inmates

Posted 10 May 2023 at 9:29 am

Press Release, NYS Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association

ALBANY – A contingent women who are corrections officers on Tuesday stood with the executive leadership team of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association and dozens of state legislators to demand action to protect staff from sexually charged incidents by the incarcerated community.

These types of actions, like sexual assaults, sexual harassment and lewd misconduct continue to rise in the wake of the implementation of the HALT Act, which was implemented in all state prisons on April 1, 2022.

The HALT Act severely limits, or in some cases eliminates, the ability to place incarcerated individuals in Special Housing Units, separated from the general population. State data shows the rate of assaults in prisons have skyrocketed since the law was implemented. Furthermore, the frequency and severity of sexually based incidents of misconduct involving women corrections officers have also increased.

 “The HALT Act has done irreparable harm to the hard-working men and women who work inside our facilities and has also emboldened inmates who look for opportunities to prey on others as there are now no meaningful consequences for their actions,” said NYSCOPBA President Michael Powers. “In the first year of HALT, the inmates’ emboldened actions towards female staff are reprehensible and should not be tolerated in any walk of life. Since HALT, inmates hurl sexually charged obscenities towards female staff more frequently, inmates stalk our female officers as their next sexual target, and in some cases act out by assaulting women COs in a sexual manner.”

According to statistics maintained by the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, in the 12 months that followed the enactment of the HALT Act on April 1, 2022, there were 3,113 total assaults recorded in New York’s correctional facilities. In the 12 months prior to HALT’s enactment there 2,375 assaults were recorded, almost a 33% jump in overall violence. As previously reported, publicly posted state data shows a record number of inmate-on-staff and inmate-on-inmate assaults was set in 2022.

Nearly 16,000 NYSCOPBA corrections officers work across 44 facilities in New York State. Of those active members, over 3,000 are women. In some of the larger men’s maximum-security facilities, women make up a third to nearly half of the security staff. These female officers are tasked with the same responsibilities and expectations of their male counterparts.