By ALEXANDRA SEMENOVA
During his time working at a federal detention center in Manhattan, former correctional officer Rudell Clark Mullings offered to smuggle makeup and Twizzlers candy into the cell of a female inmate. That, court records say, is one of the many ways he accosted her before raping the victim last year on Valentine’s Day in an unmonitored corridor while she waxed the floors.
The 350-pound correction officer from Brooklyn checked to make sure the secluded area was void of surveillance cameras before pinning the prisoner down, ripping off her clothing, and committing the rape, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Hiral Mehta, who prosecuted his case.
The unidentified victim told Judge Edward Korman at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on May 4 that she suffered flashbacks from being “repeatedly raped” and getting “flak” for the sexual abuse from other inmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
“I want to thank the court that I was believed despite my low status as an inmate,” the victim, who is serving a 30-year sentence for murder, said.
The 54-year-old Mullings was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of an inmate.
As he handed down the sentence, Korman said that “It’s necessary to send a message to people in positions such as his that the conduct is unacceptable and deserves severe punishment.”
Mullings is one of many correctional officers accused or suspected of sexual misconduct in the federal and state prison systems in New York State and in New York City-run jails.
New York State prisoners self-reported the highest rate of sexual abuse by staff in the nation on sexual victimization, according to a Justice Department review required by The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.
According to a lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Manhattan, sexual abuse in New York women’s prisons is persistent and often unreported.
The class action suit filed against the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in February alleged that the state has allowed a “culture of indifference” that condones the sexual abuse and harassment of women – who according to the department make up 4.7 percent of the inmate population in New York State – by officers monitoring the facilities.
The plaintiffs, six incarcerated women referred to in the suit as Jane Jones 1-Jane Jones 6, did not seek damages but requested an end to the “pattern of sexual misconduct” in jails for the sake of all women after being “involved in forcible sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual misconduct, verbal threats, harassment and voyeurism.”
Some allegations echo the Mullings case. Court papers show that the 24-year-old inmate known as Jane Jones 1 reported to the Department of Corrections commissioner in writing that officers at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility chose areas away from surveillance cameras to commit the rapes and worked together, alerting the guard on duty when a supervisor was on his way.
The case, called Jones v. Annucci, says there are only isolated instances of officers being disciplined “The culture of sexual abuse and harassment persistsThe lawsuit alleges that quote “all women prisoners” are at risk for “sexual assault, abuse, and harassment by correctional staff, including sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, oral sexual acts, sexual touching, voyeurism, invasion of personal privacy, and demeaning sexual comments,” it alleges.
A federal lawsuit in November 2015 accuses a Rikers Island correction officer of raping a female inmate on a bus while his colleague watched the 20-minute attack.
Documents filed in court by New York City Public Advocate Letitia James say the jail reported only two incidents out of the 116 complaints and none of the 28 accusations of rape to the NYPD. They say that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees health care at the jail, passed the complaints to the city Department of Corrections, which reported only two misdemeanor assaults to police. James’s filing charges that the women’s jail perpetuates a “pervasive culture of rape.”
“Staff sexual abuse is a serious problem in New York’s women’s prisons,” Veronica Vela, staff attorney in The Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project, said in a statement.