A Black transgender woman jailed at New York City's Rikers Island complex has sued over sexual assaults she said she suffered while housed with male inmates.
Latee Brockington, 31, who is being held on robbery charges, said she asked several times to be moved to a women's unit, the New York Daily News reports. She filed her suit recently in Bronx Supreme Court (in New York, "Supreme" does not refer to the highest court).
She has been housed at Rikers "on and off" since her arrest in May 2020, according to the Daily News. She was first placed in the Anna M. Kross Center, a unit for men; jail officials said she could not be housed with women because she was not on hormone therapy, but she started taking it soon after her incarceration. She also has bipolar disorder, jail records state.
Her first sexual assault occurred at the Kross Center on June 12, 2020, her suit says. She was depressed and on suicide watch, but a corrections officer "let an inmate into her cell, who then choked her unconscious and sexually assaulted her," the Daily News reports.
She was then transferred to the Rose M. Singer Center, a unit for women, but in December she was sent back to the men's jail. Officials cited "security concerns," without elaborating, the suit says. A member of the medical staff noted that she was "uncomfortable" in the men's unit because of the assault.
Shortly after she arrived at the men's jail, she was sexually assaulted in the shower by two men, one of whom threatened her with a knife, according to her suit. A week later, she suffered a third assault, the document says.
Brockington said she reported each assault. "In all three incidents I went to Bellevue Hospital to do a rape DNA test and semen was found in all three of the incidents," she told the Daily News.
Her robbery case has yet to go to trial. She was released on bail last April, but she was arrested on another robbery charge last August. Since then she has been accused of harassing a jail employee, something she denies doing. She is still at the Kross Center but wants to be moved to a women's unit.
"Why not have me in a housing unit by myself but still inside the female facility for my safety?" she told the Daily News.
The city's Law Department declined comment on her suit, while a spokesman for the Correction Department said her assault allegations are being investigated. Evan Nass, her lawyer, said the Correction Department should adopt new policies for trans inmates.
"Ultimately, it is not a very large percentage of the overall inmate population and thus a problem that should be feasible to mend," Nass told the paper.
There has been much criticism of the treatment of LGBTQ+ and other inmates at Rikers. In 2019, trans woman Layleen Cubilette-Polanco died of an epileptic seizure while in solitary confinement there. An investigation by the city's Board of Correction found that guards had not checked on her every 15 minutes as required, instead leaving her alone for longer periods.
Her family sued and last year won a $5.9 million settlement from the city, the largest ever in a Rikers case. The city disciplined 17 corrections officers for mishandling of Polanco's situation and vowed to end solitary confinement, immediately for inmates with certain medical conditions and later for others, but that plan has run into opposition, including from New York's new mayor, Eric Adams. Trans people are disproportionately placed in solitary confinement. The city also plans to close Rikers by 2027 and then house inmates in smaller facilities near courthouses, and Adams is on board with that.
Then last September, Esias "Izzy" Johnson, a 24-year-old Black gay man, died at Rikers while being held on $1 bail, which he was able to pay, but there had been restrictions on his release because of a separate charge in New Jersey, and he had said Rikers officials kept him from making his court dates. His family said he had been complaining of stomach pains but had received no medical treatment. A captain and two corrections officers have been suspended; the incident is still being investigated. He was one of at 14 people to die in New York City jails in 2021.