A New York City prison guard might soon find herself on the other side of the bars.
Nicole Bartley, a corrections officer at New York’s Rikers Island facility, was charged on Sunday with raping a prisoner and conspiring to bring him marijuana. Bartley, who says she was in love with the inmate, was found out when a drug-sniffing dog caught a whiff of marijuana on her outside the prison.
Bartley has confessed to having sex with the Rikers inmate, who cannot legally consent while imprisoned.
“I was in love with him. He used me and played me for a fool. I had sex with him on one occasion in the jail a few days before Jan. 30,” Bartley told investigators in a criminal complaint published by The New York Times. “I used a condom. It was in the closet in the morning when everyone else was locked in. It only lasted five minutes.”
But the charges against Bartley reveal a larger culture of contraband and sexual abuse at Rikers Island.
“I was fooled by Dasmond Loveless,” Bartley testified, naming the inmate she assaulted. “I, Nicole, being a fool had my guard down to this man I thought [I] was falling in love with.”
Despite Bartley’s claims that their sexual relations were “mutual,” Penal Law states that inmates like Loveless cannot legally consent to sex. As a corrections officer, Bartley faces third-degree rape charges for the alleged abuse of power.
Rape in Rikers Island—by guards and inmates—is epidemic. But the perpetrators seldom see justice. In May 2015, two anonymous female inmates filed a disturbing lawsuit against eight Rikers Island guards, whom the women accused of repeatedly raping, molesting, and threatening inmates.
When women threatened to speak out about the abuse, the guards retaliated, “placing them in punitive segregation based on false disciplinary charges, threats and other verbal abuse, deprivation of food for extended periods of time, and refusing to permit women to bathe,” the suit claims.
Accusations like these rarely make it to court. According to documents released by the New York City Public Advocate’s office, Rikers Island inmates filed 116 complaints of sexual abuse in 2014. Only two of those complaints were passed on to the police.
Rikers Island officers have also come under suspicion for the prison’s steady flow of contraband items.
When Gunner, a drug-sniffing Labrador retriever, caught Bartley with a package of marijuana on Saturday, it was the dog’s second arrest of the week. On Wednesday, Gunner sniffed out correction agent Mohammed Sufian, who was attempting to smuggle in a package of K2 synthetic marijuana. The Department of Corrections began using drug-sniffing dogs on prison guards in 2014, when the city’s Department of Investigations (DOI) found that corrections officers could easily bring contraband to inmates.
Bartley testified that love compelled her to smuggle drugs to Loveless. But in 2009, another female Rikers Island guard also was busted for sneaking drugs to Loveless, this time for money.
“Following an investigation by DOI, Dasmond Loveless and his mother, Carolyn Loveless, were charged with paying Teneya Griffith, a former Correction Officer, to bring tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, prohibited items in the City’s jails,” states a 2009 indictment (PDF) from the Department of Investigations.
Bartley said her drug-smuggling effort also involved Loveless and another woman, this time the mother of Loveless’s child.
“Loveless persuaded me to retrieve a package from his baby mother so it can help them ’cause she was struggling to support their daughter,” Bartley told investigators.
She faces charges of third degree rape, sexual misconduct, official misconduct, promoting prison contraband, and fourth degree criminal possession of marijuana.