As the daughter of a longtime correction officer, who then retired as a captain in the department, I grew up hearing the stories of what it’s like to work in our city’s correctional facilities. My mother, who passed away this past February, worked hard to support my family, often taking on double shifts to ensure that my sister and I had everything we needed. Like my mother, almost half of all correction officers are women of color, and a large percentage are single parents who are providing for their families to the best of their abilities.
That’s why I was outraged and infuriated when a group of women correction officers met with me to detail the horrors they faced on a daily basis on Rikers Island. Officers have been sexually assaulted, harassed, molested, and have had fluids thrown at them by detainees. One woman was even groped while pregnant. The women correction officers described how traumatized, humiliated and disrespected they have felt for years. They have been emotionally and physically violated, yet they felt overwhelmingly ignored by the Department of Correction and other authorities who failed to respond with the proper sense of urgency.