Editorial & Opinion

Pinto: Rhode Island must pass legislation to stop sexual assault on those in custody

There was a critical flaw in the New York legal system that allowed police officers to have sex with persons in their custody. This same legal loophole still exists in Rhode Island…
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Published on February 7, 2022
By Zachary Pinto

There is a massive problem with Rhode Island law and it needs to be fixed. In New York in 2017, 18-year-old Anna Chambers was raped by two police officers after being detained for drug possession. The officers agreed to let her go after she performed sexual acts on the officers. Something so incredibly heinous as coercing a teenager into sexual acts for her freedom seems like it should come with an equally fitting punishment, but both officers faced zero jail time. This is not due to any bribing of judges or good defense, but to a critical flaw in the New York legal system that allowed for police officers to have sex with persons in their custody. This same legal loophole still exists in Rhode Island. Something must be done before a situation as horrific as what happened to Anna Chambers happens to a Rhode Island citizen.  

Laws are meant to protect people, so flaws like this that allow predators to hurt people within the means of the law are fatal to the integrity of our legal system. People of color always are the most affected group when it comes to the failures of our justice system, and custodial sexual assault is no exception. Black women are the highest risk population for experiencing sexual assault by police officers. 

With 40 other states passing bills criminalizing sexual interaction between a police officer and someone in their custody, it’s time for Rhode Island to do the same. House Bill No. 6637 would patch this legal loophole that allows police, probation, and correctional officers to get away with coercing those in their custody into sexual encounters. The people are relying on elected officials to do their duty and pass legislation that will protect citizens from predators. You can show your support for outlawing custodial sexual assault by testifying this Thursday, February 10, 2022, in the House Lounge at the State House in support of Representative Brianna HenriesHouse Bill No. 6637.

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