NYC Pays $280K Settlement for Rikers Anti-Gay Attack

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Thomas Hamm

Thomas Hamm (L) and his partner. Photo courtesy Lambda Legal

The City of New York was ordered on Wednesday to compensate a visitor to Rikers Island who was beaten by two corrections officers hurling anti-gay slurs, according to a press release from the victim’s attorneys.

“For decades, the corruption and abuse at Rikers Island targeting incarcerated LGBT people—most of whom are black and brown—has gone unchecked. We are hopeful this resolution will make it harder for this kind of discrimination and brutality to continue,” said David B. Rankin, Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP Partner and Lambda Legal’s Co-Counsel in the case.


The Rikers Island jail complex in New York City . Photo by David Oppenheimer via Flickr

According to the federal lawsuit, Thomas Hamm was visiting his boyfriend at Rikers in 2014 when two corrections officers on duty ordered them to stop holding hands, while other visitors were embracing their loved ones, calling them “faggots” and saying “you’ll burn in hell” before abruptly ending the visit.

As Mr. Hamm was leaving, the two officers grabbed him, repeatedly punching and kicking him, the complaint alleges. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, where he was diagnosed with facial fractures and head trauma.

The lawsuit also contends that supervisors tried to cover up the beating by accusing Hamm of provoking the attack, and arresting him. The charges were later dismissed.

Earlier this year, the Jail’s Action Committee released a report maintaining that conditions for visitors to Rikers “continue to be discouraging at best and traumatizing and violent at worst”despite efforts from lawmakers and officials to address the longstanding history of brutality and corruption at the facility.

“Women and men have reported being forced to strip down to their underwear, show officers their genitals, suffer through inappropriate touching of their breasts and genitals, and undergo cavity searches—even though these searches are directly in violation of Department of Correction (DOC) policy,” said the study.

Rikers, the nation’s second-largest jail after the Los Angeles County facility, has been the center of heated controversy over conditions inside the complex and alleged “torture” of inmates by guards. A commission headed by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman recommended closing Rikers, and in August Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to close the facility by 2027, replacing it with a “modern community-based jail system that is smaller, safer, and fairer.”

This summary was prepared by TCR Depuity Editor-Investigations Victoria Mckenzie.

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