Today, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning) joined his colleagues on both sides of the aisle as well as correction officers and the executive team of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, Inc. (NYSCOPBA) for a press conference on the importance of passing common-sense legislation to make the sexual assault of a correction officer a felony.
“We have a dangerous staffing, violence, security and safety crisis going on inside our state and city correctional facilities,” said Palmesano. “It is long overdue for the state Legislature to pass this common-sense legislation (A.1606/S.5506) that would make sexual assault against a correction officer a felony. Currently, it is only a misdemeanor to sexually assault a correction officer. This is abhorrent, completely unacceptable and must be corrected immediately. Sexual assault in the workplace should not be tolerated.
“We have a growing number of female correction officers in our state. In fact, over 40% of our brave correction officers working on Rikers Island in New York City are women and these dedicated female employees have seen a rise in sexual assaults committed against them by incarcerated individuals. Unfortunately, these brave and dedicated women must go to work every day not knowing if they will be harassed or assaulted by an inmate. We heard courageous stories today from several brave correction officers who have been sexually assaulted by inmates, and I want to thank each one of them for bravely sharing their stories so the Legislature can see the women who are victims of these violent acts,” said Palmesano.
Palmesano and his colleagues also called for the repeal of the HALT Act, which limits the use of segregated confinement for dangerous prisoners. The passage of the HALT Act has caused a steep increase in violence within the correction system.
“The rise in assaults has increased since the implementation of the HALT Act in April 2022. We have seen a dramatic spike in violence inside our correctional facilities. We saw a record high level of assaults rise to nearly 1,500 (300 more from 2021 to 2022) for both inmate-on-staff (24% increase) and inmate-on-inmate (34% increase) inside our state correctional facilities. This is not a coincidence, the HALT Act is emboldening violent criminals to commit attacks while incarcerated because they know they will not face any consequences. It is time for the governor and Legislature to act and immediately repeal HALT and allow for the segregation of the most dangerous and violent inmates from the rest of the general population to keep staff and inmates safer,” continued Palmesano.
“We, as a Legislature, must act now and put the safety and interests of correction officers and law-abiding citizens over the interests of violent criminals. We must pass A.1606/S.5506 and repeal the HALT Act (A.03196/S.03035) now to show we are serious about protecting our correction officers," concluded Palmesano.