rikers island

Bronx Woman Sues NYC Over Abuse and Solitary Confinement at Rikers Island

Lead image by Jefferson Siegel via New York Daily News

A Bronx woman has filed a $10 million lawsuit against NYC alleging that guards at Rikers Island sexually and physically abused her while she spent two years in solitary confinement for a crime that she was ultimately cleared of.

Candie Hailey was arrested in 2012 and charged with attempted murder after an incident with three other Bronx women left a four-month-old girl with a head injury. The women claimed that Hailey attacked them over a personal feud, and stabbed the baby in the head. Hailey argued that she was fighting the women because they stole her purse, and the infant was injured when her own mother knocked the stroller over during the fight. In May of 2015, a jury agreed with Hailey’s side of the story, and she was fully acquitted of all charges.

In the 29 months between the arrest and the trial, Hailey was confined at Rikers Island. During that time, she alleged that she was held in solitary confinement for 27 months and attempted suicide “more than 100 times” after prison guards sexually and physically assaulted her. While imprisoned, the woman attempted to cut her wrists with broken light bulbs, tried to overdose on pills and Nair hair remover, and tried to electrocute herself. “I just wanted to die. I didn’t think about anything else,” Hailey explained. “It was taking too long to prove my innocence.”

Hailey and her attorney, Paul Prestia, have filed a notice of claim against the city, a necessary step before they can file their planned $10 million lawsuit. In the claim, the woman accused prison guards of groping, beating, and threatening her while forcing her to submit to “gratuitous strip searches.” In one incident, Hailey accused a Rikers captain of punching her in the head and placing his finger in her anus. “Candie Hailey’s treatment by correction officers at Rikers Island was less than inhumane and invokes images of slavery,” Prestia said.

“Despite the fact that she was hospitalized in psychiatric wards at Elmhurst Hospital eight times over the course of her incarceration, she was continually put back into solitary confinement, and that’s criminal,” Prestia said. The attorney added that his client “still struggles and suffers from suicidal thoughts and is struggling to assimilate into society.”

A spokesperson for the city Law Department said that the notice of claim is being reviewed before the lawsuit can proceed. A Correction Department spokesperson said that the claims will also be investigated internally.


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