(CW: sexual assault.) In a recent USA Today op-ed, New York State Senator Julia Salazar blasts qualified immunity (QI) for shielding sexually abusive prison guards from accountability. Salazar, chair of the New York State Senate’s Standing Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, is a co-sponsor of S 1991, the popular New York civil rights bill that would end QI for bad correction officers.
In her piece, Julia Salazar relates how she has received “countless letters and phone calls” from incarcerated people and their loved ones across New York State. These individuals have shared with the senator heartbreaking tales “on the harmful, pervasive impact of sexual assault in our state’s prison system.”
Sadly, these victims currently have no real pathway to justice.
“I am acutely aware of how difficult it is for any sexual assault survivor to obtain redress, even outside of the jail or prison system,” notes Julia Salazar. “It can be especially difficult and dangerous for incarcerated individuals to pursue justice when their abuser happens to be a correction officer. And this is in large part because of qualified immunity.”
Addressing the impact of this humanitarian crisis in the New York prison system is of utmost importance to Julia Salazar, as QI “breeds a repugnant culture of impunity” rampant among abusive correction officers. Advocating for the victims is one of the main reasons she’s co-sponsoring S 1991. Senator Salazar and many of her fellow legislators “believe government actors entrusted with the care of New Yorkers should be held to the same standard of the law, if not a higher one, as anyone else,” she writes in USA Today.
“Incarcerated individuals deserve to be treated with dignity. They have basic human rights that we must uphold,” Julia Salazar firmly states. “Passing S1991 and ending qualified immunity will prevent sexual predators in positions of power from continuing to get away with their abuse. Making it law would remind government officials of their obligation to honorably serve the people,” she concludes.
Read the entire Julia Salazar op-ed here.