NEW YORK (WABC) – Hundreds of formerly incarcerated inmates are suing New York State for failing to protect them while incarcerated.

About 750 victims said they survived being sexually assaulted while in custody in New York City jails, according to the lawsuit.

The victims were held at Bayview Correctional Facility, Rikers Island, Bedford Hills and other state prisons.

The three survivors, including Mia Wheeler, were the first of hundreds of women to come forward.

“The officer first befriended me. And after the sexual assault happened, he let me know in no uncertain terms that we lived in the same neighborhood and that if I told, I would suffer the consequences,” said Mia Wheeler, a survivor of sexual assault.

This action was brought under the Adult Survivors Act.

Some cases of sexual violence date back to the 1980s.

Ben Crump and Adam Slater represent some of the victims and held a press conference to discuss the importance of lawsuits.

“All of these women suffered in silence not only for years, but for decades,” said attorney Ben Crump.

Their lawyers say the women were sentenced to lifelong trauma. They pointed to a report detailing the abuse of inmates at Bayview. It was written in 1985.

“New York State has known rampant sexual assault for decades,” said attorney Adam Slater.

The Adult Survivor Act goes into effect next week on Thanksgiving Day. It was introduced by State Senator Brad Hoylman. Bayview was in his area.

“For the jury to really hear their truth, it couldn’t be more important to these women,” Hoylman said.

Sadie Bell wants change. Like having only female officers work with female inmates and other prevention-oriented policies that are long overdue.

“I was raped and pregnant by a correctional officer. And I just want to be told the truth,” said Sadie Bell, a survivor of sexual assault.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released the following statement:

“DOCCS has zero tolerance for sexual assault, sexual harassment and unauthorized relationships. The department thoroughly investigates all reports of sexual victimization, including unauthorized relationships, and retaliates against any individuals who report incidents or cooperate with such investigations. Employees have a positive duty to report any knowledge, suspicion or information regarding an incident of sexual violence or sexual harassment, or any unauthorized relationship. Individuals who violate the Department’s rules are subject to Departmental disciplinary action and, where there is evidence of a crime, DOCCS will prosecute those cases to the fullest extent permitted by law.”

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