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NYC Department of Correction rocked by sexual abuse scandal. Here's what one man says happened to him.

NYC Department of Correction rocked by sexual abuse scandal
NYC Department of Correction rocked by sexual abuse scandal 03:10

NEW YORK -- A new scandal has hit the beleaguered New York City Department of Correction.

More than 100 lawsuits filed were filed Tuesday, charging that sexual abuse was rampant at the city's juvenile detention centers. The suits allege a pattern of abuse that goes back decades.

Filed under a special "look back" law passed by the City Council, the suits seek monetary damages. A spokesperson for the city says that while the majority of cases predate the Mayor Eric Adams' administration, it takes the allegations seriously and will work with the Law Department to deal with them.

Nijere Stewart told his story to CBS New York's Marcia Kramer  

In an exclusive interview, Stewart said was repeatedly raped and assaulted during the five months he was in custody.

Kramer saw pictures of Stewart during happier times, including at his eighth grade graduation from middle school.

"Like, I was a straight 'A' student. I was the fun kid, always smiling, running around, always going somewhere," Stewart said.

But all that changed dramatically in 2008 when at age 15 he found himself locked up at the Crossroads Detention Center in Brooklyn. His version of the circumstances is that he was "with some friends, we were hanging out in front of a building and the police came. They found a firearm under the staircase that didn't belong to none of us."

He said charges, ultimately, were never brought, "because the firearm didn't belong to me. It wasn't mine."

But according to a lawsuit filed against the Department of Correction he still spent five months at Crossroads, a time that became a living hell, a time that scarred him forever.

"Mr. Stewart was sexually assaulted in a severe, severe manner"

Attorney Jerry Block is filing the suits against the city and the Department of Correction on behalf of Stewart and other teenage clients who spent time at the city's juvenile detention centers -- Crossroads, Horizon, Rikers and Spofford, which has since been closed.

"Many of our clients were raped. Many were forced to perform oral sex or other sexual acts. These cases are so serious because the perpetrators are adults," Block said. "The very people entrusted with keeping our clients safe, the correction officers, the counselors, the nurses, all of these different types of staff members, they were the ones that were perpetrating the abuse."

In some of the cases the abuse started immediately. Sometimes the kids were "groomed."

"We have many cases where there was grooming and manipulation, where kids were given alcohol, kids were given drugs, kids were given special privileges," Block said.

In Stewart's case, he says it was force and brutality

"Sexually, they touched me. Asking me to do things I didn't want to do," Stewart said, when asked what was done to him. "It's a lot of things that traces back in my mind. I don't want to replay again."

When asked if he was raped, Stewart said, "Yes, correct," adding "It make me feel like less of a man."

When he finally got out of Crossroads he wasn't the same happy-go-lucky kid that entered five months before.

"Because of the abuse I was scared to interact with people. I was scared to tell people where I was, what happened to me, because people were asking me where I've been and I was just scared to tell people what was going on," Stewart said.

Block said his clients have long-term trauma from their experiences in the detention centers.

"Our clients have suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress disorders and they've suffered their whole lives with this. It's well known that childhood sexual abuse is one of the worst traumas a person can experience," Block said.

6/13/24 Editor's note: Another wave of lawsuits was filed against the NYC Department of Correction days after this report was published. 

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