marshall_project OP t1_iy49occ wrote

Seven years after a detainee at Rikers alleged she was in a consensual, but prohibited, relationship with a correction officer who also pressured her to cover up a rape — the guard has finally been fired.

The officer, Leonard McNeill, began a four-month-long sexual liaison with an incarcerated woman in 2015, as she awaited trial on drug charges. He gave her contraband food and clothes. He also told her to delay reporting that she had been raped by another officer who was later criminally charged, according to a judge's ruling.

The detainee, who asked not to be named, hailed the firing: "I'm a nobody, but somebody actually believed my words," she told The Marshall Project and The City. "It felt vindicating."

Dori Lewis, the former supervising attorney at The Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project, said there's no good data to indicate how often staff enter into supposedly consensual relationships with people in their custody — in part because there's often no good way to measure it separately from other sexual misconduct. "Sexual relationships that take place inside a prison are inherently coercive," Lewis said.

The lack of immediate repercussions for sexually abusive staff can have a "devastating effect on the person who's been sexually abused and a chilling effect on anyone else who wants to report abuse," said Julie Abbate, the national advocacy director for Just Detention International.

McNeill's firing is the coda to a case that first surfaced seven years ago.

Read our full report with The City (no paywall)