Systemic Sexual Abuse Alleged in Prison

BROOKLYN (CN) – Five women claim a grievance officer at Nassau County Correctional Center raped, threatened, stalked and harassed inmates, one of whom he impregnated. The women claim in Federal Court that prison staff knew about Marc Barber’s abuses, but did nothing to stop it.

     As a grievance officer, Barber’s job was to take complaints about prisoners’ medical care and quality-of-life issues. The women say he abused his position to pressure them for sex.
     Barber raped and impregnated 21-year-old inmate in January 2009, after luring her to his office on the pretext of performing a computer search for outstanding warrants, according to the complaint.
     “The prospect of giving birth to defendant Barber’s baby presented her with an agonizing decision,” the complaint states.
     “While plaintiff [K.H.] wished to terminate the pregnancy, her family was deeply and strenuously opposed to such a decision. In particular, her mother and grandmother believed that it would be … an unforgivable sin to terminate the life of this baby, regardless of the circumstances that had led to the creation of this child. So strong were their beliefs that they repeatedly threatened to sever ties with plaintiff [K.H.] forever if she went ahead with the abortion,” according to the complaint.
     Although K.H. worried about her family’s wrath, “she dreaded the prospect of giving birth to a child that she felt would be a constant reminder of a dreadful, repulsive and wholly unwanted sexual encounter,” the complaint states.
     K.H. spent “several months agonizing over whether or not she could carry this baby to term,” until “her pregnancy … terminated naturally,” according to the complaint.
     Another plaintiff claims that during K.H.’s ordeal, Barber propositioned her in front of at least two other inmates in a room next to the chapel.
     She says he visited her again, pretending to apologize, but told her that the night crews would let him “pop open her doors” at any time.
     He added, “I don’t need to come to jail to get laid,” according to the complaint.
     She says she reported this to another officer, but Barber was allowed to continue working in the building and to “stare at and intimidate” her. And she claims that he refused her “documented medical need” for anti-anxiety and antidepressant medication to treat conditions that his abuse had exacerbated.
     Another 21-year-old inmate claims that Barber’s harassment and abuse continued in and out of prison. She claims she was incarcerated for a little over a month for missing a court appearance. She says Barber visited her dorm area on “an almost daily basis” and stared at her so often that her fellow inmates teased her by saying, “Oh, look, your boyfriend is here again.”
     She claims that Barber “boasted” to her about the power he wielded in prison, and told her about his sexual encounters with other inmates.
     She claims Barber asked her to undress for him, as other inmates had, and that she “was thoroughly repulsed by this idea, yet at the same time, she was afraid of saying no. So she agreed to flash defendant Barber and in fact exposed her breasts to him on one occasion.”
     She claims that Barber brought cigarettes into her cell and told her he would give them to her, and might reduce her jail time if she masturbated him. Eventually, she says, he forced her hand onto his erect penis and gave her two cigarettes “as payment.”
     She claims that Barber told her he would send for her alone in his office, but that he did not know that she would be released from prison before he could extend his “invitation.”
     Undeterred, she says, Barber illegally got her private cell phone number from the jail records, stalked her while driving his red Mini Cooper, and refused to “take no for an answer,” calling her “at all hours” even after she warned him of her jealous and abusive husband.
     Another inmate claims that when she complained about the heat in her dorm, Barber started visiting her in the middle of the night, pretending to “check on the temperature.” He was actually spying because he knew she stripped to her bra and underwear to stay cool at night, she claims.
     She says he shined a light into her cell during these “inspections” and told her, “Hey, there’s no need to cover up, I like it that way” when she scrambled to get dressed.
     She claims Barber groped her and rubbed against her in the law library, leered at her sunbathing in the courtyard, and propositioned her when he found out she was leaving, by offering to pay her for sex outside the prison.
     Another plaintiff claims Barber maintained the delusion he had a relationship with the woman he was victimizing. She says he handed her a pair of his used underwear as a “present” and sent other “gifts” to her after she was transferred to another prison.
     She says she found out that Barber was spying on her when he told her, “I really like watching when you getting out of the shower.” She says she rejected all his advances, but he continued to visit her when she transferred to Bayview Prison, told her he “missed her,” and tried to “hold hands with her, as if they were involved in a romantic relationship.”
     The plaintiffs says they “had no way to file grievances [against Barber] for his lewd and grossly improper conduct” because they would have had to file the complaints with him.
     Barber was arrested on Dec. 30, 2009, and the Nassau County District Attorney charged him with three counts of rape in the third degree, 10 counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, three counts of forcible touching, and 35 counts of official misconduct, according to the complaint.
      “There were many other staff members at NCCC who knew about defendant Barber’s improper conduct, but who simply looked the other way and did nothing,” the complaint states.
     The five women say that Barber’s predations were “merely a reflection of a larger, systemic failure of top-level prison officials.” They claim that even the sheriff “had sent love notes hidden in food trays to various female inmates at NCCC” in front of a corporal and prison guard, who kept silent.
     Along with Barber, defendants include Sheriff Michael Sposato, Corrections Officers Ravizee, Nassau County and John Does 1-10.
     The women seek compensatory and punitive damages for assault and battery, civil rights violations and negligent supervision.
     They are represented by Jon Norinsberg.

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