Sexual Abuse by Prison and Jail Staff Proves Persistent, Pandemic
by Gary Hunter
Sexual assault, rape, indecency, deviance. These terms represent reprehensible behavior in our society. They also represent recurring themes in our nation’s prisons – not only by prisoners, but also by guards and other staff members.
PLN’s August 2006 cover story, Guards Rape of Prisoners Rampant, No Solution in Sight, profiled examples of sexual abuse by prison guards and other employees in 26 states. Since that time the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission has issued proposed standards to reduce sexual abuse behind bars, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics has released reports on sexual victimization in our nation’s prisons and jails. The latter reports found that over 60% of allegations of sexual abuse involved staff members rather than other prisoners.
What has not changed in the past several years is the continued rape and sexual exploitation of prisoners by prison and jail employees who are supposed to ensure their safety. All 50 states have enacted laws criminalizing sex between prisoners and prison staff; thus, employees who engage in sexual misconduct can no longer claim consent as a defense.
Due to the nature of prisons as “total institutions,” it is impossible for prisoners to voluntarily consent to sexual advances by staff members who exert complete control over their lives – and in some cases over their release from prison.
Past issues of PLN have pushed this significant problem to the forefront. We would like to report that exposure of this issue has eased the problem. It hasn’t. We would like to say our continued coverage on this subject has deterred sexual abuse by prison staff. It didn’t.
Prison and jail employees are more out of control than ever. From state to state, north to south, east to west, sexual misconduct by guards and other staff members continues to weave its way through the fabric of our nation’s prisons. A common thread of rape, debauchery and even sexual torture is present in detention facilities nationwide.
This time we bring you recent reports from 39 states, which constitute only a fraction of the tragic truth about rape and sexual abuse by prison and jail workers. Indeed, it would easily be possible to publish a monthly magazine consisting of nothing but substantiated reports of the sexual assault of prisoners by their captors. It also illustrates the shortcomings of the PREA which contains no real enforcement mechanism to stop or deter sexual assaults, merely the collection of data self reported by the agencies holding the prisoners. But one result is we may now have slightly better data than we did before in a central location.
Former prison guard Elsa Gutierrez, 33, was booked into the Yuma County Jail on October 1, 2008 after being charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a male prisoner. She had been employed at the Arizona State Prison Complex.
On November 7, 2008, Steve Edward Hiser was arrested and charged with six counts of sex crimes involving female prisoners. He was a maintenance worker at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center when the incidents occurred; the charges include sexual battery, indecent exposure, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and rape by instrumentation. Hiser posted a $15,000 bond; his case is still pending.
Former Arkansas DOC psychologist Anna Clark, 57, was convicted of third-degree sexual assault after being caught in the act of sexual intercourse with prisoner Dan Burns.
In a taped confession Clark admitted that she had sex several times with Burns, who was diagnosed as depressed and suicidal. She was sentenced in August 2007 to three years in prison and her conviction was upheld by the state Supreme Court on Sept. 25, 2008 [See: Clark v. State, 374 Ark. 292 (Ark. 2008)].
On January 16, 2009, Pulaski County sheriff’s deputy Willie Lee Owens was arrested for raping a female prisoner in a basement holding cell at the county courthouse. While Owens went to get a napkin so his victim could clean up, she wiped some of his semen on the inside of her bra and later gave it to investigators.
“The crime lab confirmed with scientific certainty that the swabs submitted by Dep. Owens and the samples taken from the bra were the same,” the arrest warrant stated.
In May 2008, Mark Susoeff, 45, was sentenced to 120 days in jail and three years probation for having oral sex with a female prisoner. Susoeff was a guard at the Leo Chesney Community Correctional Facility (LCCC) when the incident occurred. LCCC is a minimum-security prison run by Cornell Corrections.
Former San Luis Obispo County jail guard Steven Edward Irysh was sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years probation on October 31, 2007 for performing a sex act in front of a female prisoner. He had also been charged with indecent exposure, but that charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement. On January 11, 2008, the court allowed Irysh to begin serving his sentence in late February to accommodate his work schedule. He was also allowed to serve his jail time on weekends.
In September 2007, former Imperial County jail guard James Ray Morris pleaded no contest to having sex with female prisoners. One of his victims stated that Morris threatened to restrict her recreation time if she didn’t have sex, and that she contracted a sexually transmitted disease from him. Morris was sentenced on October 19, 2007 to 90 days in jail and three years probation.
Two prisoners have filed lawsuits against Imperial County claiming that jail guards, including Morris, pressured them into having sex. One guard, Corbin Dillon, allegedly coerced oral sex from a prisoner who was in an observation cell following a suicide attempt. [See: Fernandez v. Morris, U.S.D.C. (SD Cal.), Case No. 3:2008-cv-00601-H-CAB and Flores-Nunez v. Dillon, U.S.D.C. (SD Cal.), Case No. 3:08-cv-01881-W-CAB].
Two female prisoners from Hawai’i, Christina Riley and Jacqueline Overturf, were being held at the Brush Correctional Facility, a private prison operated by GRW Corp., when they were sexually assaulted by prison guard Russell E. Rollison. They filed a lawsuit that was settled in January 2008; their attorney, Myles Breiner, described the confidential settlement as a “significant amount of money.” [See: Riley v. Rollison, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:06-cv-01347-WYD-BNB].
The prisoners claimed they had been coerced by Rollison to perform a sex act, and alleged he had threatened them with disciplinary write-ups if they did not cooperate. One of the women saved Rollison’s semen and turned it over to DOC authorities.
Despite having evidence in the form of the guard’s semen, state officials called the incident a ploy by the women to get back to their home state of Hawai’i. Since the settlement, all Hawai’i prisoners at the Brush facility have been moved to the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky – where incidents of sexual abuse have continued (see below).
Rollison resigned and was charged with two counts of having felony sexual contact with a prisoner. The charges were later reduced when he pleaded guilty to menacing with a real or simulated weapon – a non-sex offense – and received probation.
Former prison Sgt. Leshawn Terrell, employed at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, was charged with having sexual relations with prisoner Amanda Hall. According to a subsequent lawsuit, Hall claimed that Terrell made her a “virtual sex slave” and coerced her continuously to have sex over a five-month period. Terrell sexually abused her to the point that she sustained a torn rectum that required surgery.
“She’s been assaulted in ways that are so inhumane and so offensive we can’t talk about them on TV,” stated Hall’s attorney, Mari Newman. “What I’ve learned after the [lawsuit] filing, I’ve got many many e-mails about other similar cases, and this is a problem systemwide in the Colorado Department of Corrections,” Newman said.
Hall’s federal lawsuit settled in December 2008 for $250,000 in damages and attorney fees; additionally, the DOC agreed to install more security cameras in the area where the sexual assaults took place. [See: Hall v. Colorado DOC, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:08-cv-00999-DME-MEH].
On Oct. 28, 2008, Terrell pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful sexual conduct. The judge found that he had preyed on female prisoners who were in a “unique and vulnerable position,” and imposed a sentence of 60 days in jail and five years probation, plus sex offender treatment and placement on the state’s sex offender registry.
A former secretary at the Federal Prison Camp in Florence (which houses the federal supermax) was sentenced to six months in prison and five years supervised release on January 29, 2009. Janine Sligar, who had worked for the Bureau of Prisons for 14 years, had a sexual relationship with prisoner Eric McClain that included oral sex and intercourse.
On August 22, 2008, former federal prison guard Michael Rudkin pleaded guilty to charges of having sex with a female prisoner and plotting with her to kill his wife.
According to prosecutors, Rudkin provided his incarcerated lover with a detailed layout of his home and agreed to pay $5,000 for the murder. He also asked her to wait until he could have a life insurance policy taken out on his wife.
The plot was discovered before his wife was harmed. Rudkin was sentenced to 15 years in prison on January 15, 2009; he had been employed at FCI Dansbury.
Former prison guard William A. Blanton was sentenced on May 22, 2008 to three years probation and eight months home detention after being convicted of engaging in a sexual act with a female prisoner.
Blanton and eight other employees at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman had been arrested on suspicion of smuggling and misconduct following a two-year investigation; he was the only guard charged with a sex-related offense.
On April 3, 2008, Wilfredo Vazquez pleaded guilty to sexual battery and “placing a woman in fear” during a forced sexual encounter. Vazquez, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employee, drove a detainee to his home and forced her to have sex with him.
The victim was being held on charges of making a false claim about her U.S. citizenship and was slated to be deported. Vazquez was responsible for transporting her from the Krome Detention Center in West Miami Dade to the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach. The woman reported the incident upon her arrival at Broward, and an investigation ensued.
Vazquez accepted a plea deal to avoid being charged with aggravated sexual assault. He was sentenced in August 2008 to seven years in prison and five years supervised release.
Shaun McFadden worked for TransCor, a private transportation company, when he was arrested at a motel for having sex with two prisoners. On March 21, 2008, McFadden and a co-worker transported two female prisoners from the Bradford County Jail to another facility. After dropping off his co-worker, McFadden returned and convinced jail officials that the prisoners needed to be taken to a local hospital for a physical examination.
McFadden then drove the women to a motel where the threesome had sex. But while he was in the shower, one of the prisoners went to a pay phone and called the police.
McFadden was arrested on charges of two counts of sexual misconduct.
The women said they had agreed to have sex with McFadden in exchange for alcohol and cigarettes. A TransCor official stated this was an isolated incident, and the company did not plan to change the way it operates. There have been at least 5 other incidents of rape and sexual abuse involving TransCor guards [See: PLN, Sept. 2006, p.1].
On November 8, 2008, prison guard Geno Lewis Hawkins was arrested on charges of sexual battery involving a female prisoner. Hawkins was employed at the CCA-run Gadsden Correctional Facility; he was held without bond.
Dewayne Wood, an 18-year veteran of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, was charged with sexual assault of a person in custody, violation of oath by a public official, and violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.
The charges stem from accusations made by a female prisoner Wood had transported on August 10, 2006. A search of Wood’s patrol vehicle yielded pornographic pictures, condoms, Viagra pills and diet pills.
Wood remained free on $10,000 bond until he pleaded guilty in October 2008. He was sentenced to two years incarceration plus 8 years probation.
Former prison guard Tashala C. Johnson-Ashley received 180 days in jail and 5 years probation after being convicted of sexual assault against a person in custody and violation of an oath by a public officer.
By her own admission, Johnson-Ashley met with a prisoner working as a trusty at the Bull Creek Golf Course on April 5, 2008 and had sex with him in her car.
On December 31, 2008, Twiggs County deputies Richard Merideth and James Kristopher Baker were arrested after they acknowledged they both had sex with jail prisoner Jennifer Lyles. Lyles reported them after one of the deputies failed to bring her some cigarettes.
In October 2008, Markell Milsap pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a female prisoner at the Federal Detention Center in Hawaii. Milsap worked as an electrician at the prison; he reportedly pushed the woman against a wall, pulled down her pants and had sex with her.
The prisoner, identified only as Jane Doe, filed a lawsuit against Milsap and the federal government, which is pending. [See: Doe v. United States, U.S.D.C. (D. Hawaii), Case No. 1:08-cv-00517-SOM-BMK].
Milsap received a 10-month prison sentence on March 10, 2009, and the federal judge over his case described the sexual encounter, even if consensual, as “horribly wrong.”
Milsap will be required to register as a sex offender; his victim refused to testify against him.
Tim Gilligan, a guard at a medium security men’s facility in Boise, was arrested on March 19, 2009 on a felony charge of having sexual contact with a female prisoner. While female prisoners are allowed to work at the men’s facility in administrative and cleaning positions, they do not have contact with male prisoners – presumably because they might be sexually assaulted. Apparently the same holds true for prison staff.
In August 2007, former Jefferson County Justice Center guard Gary Lynch was arrested on charges of sexual assault and custodial misconduct. He was accused of forcing a female prisoner to have sexual intercourse and oral sex with him.
Lynch pleaded guilty to one charge of official misconduct in June 2008 in exchange for a sentence of 30 months probation and $1,500 in costs. He was also required to serve 90 days in jail and pay incarceration fees. Under the agreement, Lynch will spend the first 45 days of his probated sentence in jail and the last 45 days in jail. However, the last 45 days will be suspended if he stays out of trouble – which presumably means if he doesn’t sexually assault anyone else.
A Dwight Correctional Center prisoner referred to by the Chicago Tribune as Jane Doe was repeatedly forced to have sex with prison guards even though she had diminished lung capacity and was hooked up to an oxygen machine.
Doe filed a lawsuit on March 3, 2008, alleging that guards would come to her cell in the middle of the night and force her to have sex in the guards’ bathroom. Doe, who is afflicted with obstructive pulmonary lung disease, became pregnant from the rapes. She was an ex-beauty pageant winner, and apparently attractive enough that the guards did not care that she had to tote her oxygen tank with her to the bathroom where they would rape her.
“You can’t fight them because they grip you from behind the neck,” she said. “You don’t know if they’re going to kill you.”
Doe tried to report the attacks on numerous occasions. But instead of help, a prison administrator threatened to have a year added to her sentence. She was placed in segregation and her letters to her attorney and the media were intercepted or blocked. She was sexually assaulted 29 times, both before and after she was put in segregation.
In January 2007, after she was released, Doe gave birth to a baby boy. Her lawsuit names the warden, assistant warden, two lieutenants and eight prison guards who allegedly participated in a “rape squad.” [See: Doe v. Denning, U.S.D.C. (ND. Ill.), Case No. 1:08-cv-01265].
Joseph R. Cabell, a guard with the Peoria County Sheriff’s Dept., was arrested on February 3, 2009 on charges of official misconduct and custodial sexual misconduct.
Cabell was assigned to monitor a suicidal female prisoner who had been taken to a hospital; instead, he offered to help her make bail if she would give him oral sex.
Although she performed the sex act, Cabell was unsuccessful in obtaining her release. The prisoner then reported him.
John Kelly, a civilian employee of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, was fired and arrested in August 2008 after it was learned he had an affair with a female prisoner. The charges against Kelly include sexual misconduct and official misconduct.
In January 2009, a manager at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center was charged with felony counts of sexual misconduct and child seduction. Michael A. Jackson is accused of forcing a 16-year-old prisoner to perform oral sex on him; the incident occurred on Christmas Eve of last year.
On January 18, 2008, former Dallas County jail administrator Deke Gliem was sentenced to eight years in prison for having sex with a prisoner, touching and kissing other prisoners, and watching them shower. He reportedly gave the prisoners telephone cards in exchange for sexual favors. Gliem’s misconduct was discovered during an investigation into $6,000 in missing telephone cards and $2,300 in missing cash at the jail.
Eric A. Taylor was fired from his job as a guard at the Saline County Jail on July 14, 2008, and arrested on charges of inappropriately touching three female prisoners. He posted bond immediately. Taylor was found guilty on March 12, 2009 of three felony counts of unlawful sexual relations, and will be sentenced in late April.
Jennifer Stambaugh was a case manager with the Bureau of Prisons when she had an affair with a prisoner at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth. Stambaugh lied to a federal investigator about the affair, claiming the two had never had a sexual relationship. She also denied that they had been in touch after his release from prison.
When the truth came out, Stambaugh came clean. In April 2008 she pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a Department of Justice investigator; she was sentenced on July 14, 2008 to six months house arrest, six months probation and a $3,000 fine.
An unnamed guard was fired and charged with a misdemeanor for forcibly demanding sex from a female prisoner at the CCA-operated Otter Creek Correctional Center, according to an October 2, 2008 news report. The woman saved evidence from the sexual assault.
The victim, a prisoner from Hawai’i, was subsequently placed in segregation for 50 days; prison officials claimed she was segregated due to an altercation with another prisoner, but that allegation was later dismissed. CCA changed its policy at the facility to require, “whenever possible,” a female guard to accompany male guards in the housing areas.
On February 19, 2009, Gary Dewayne Midkiff, a social worker at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, was arrested on one count of aggravated rape. Midkiff was accused of using threats of violence to perform oral sex on a male prisoner; his victim said Midkiff threatened to make false accusations against him, which would result in a beating by prison guards. The prisoner provided DNA evidence and investigators found that four other prisoners had accused Midkiff of sexual misconduct. Midkiff refused to provide a DNA sample for comparison purposes.
Glen Works was indicted in July 2008, accused of failure to report a sexual assault by another guard. He was employed at the Maine Correctional Center (MCC). Works resigned his position a week before the charges were filed; he subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was fined.
Bradford Howard was the MCC guard that Works covered for; he was also indicted in July 2008, on charges involving sex with two prisoners. Howard, a military veteran, was later sentenced to three years with all but four months suspended.
Former prison guard Stanford Norman, 35, was sentenced on January 3, 2008 to two to three years for having sex with a female prisoner. Norman had sex with the woman while he was employed at the Hampden County Correctional Center.
Another former Hampden County guard, Brian Murphy, received two years probation; he was charged with luring the prisoner to the facility’s medical unit so Norman could have sex with her.
On August 21, 2008, former Livingston County Deputy Sheriff Randy Boos pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Boos was accused of “touching the breasts and genital areas” of three prisoners while transporting them from the county jail; he will serve between 43 months and 15 years in prison.
PLN has previously reported on the systemic sexual abuse of female prisoners by guards in the Michigan DOC, and the resultant multi-million dollar verdicts in lawsuits brought by the victimized prisoners. [See: PLN, Jan. 2006, p.12; Oct. 2008, p.42].
On January 25, 2008, U.S. Marshals arrested former Mississippi prison guard Jennifer Danielle Readus, who had fled to Texas after she was charged with having sex with a prisoner. Readus was employed at the Central Mississippi Corr. Facility when she allegedly had a sexual relationship with prisoner Zachariah Combs.
Four female employees of the Montana State Prison were placed on paid suspension in September 2008 after they were accused of having sex with prisoners. All four later resigned, and a fifth male employee was placed under investigation. The County Attorney determined there was insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges.
According to prisoner Michael Murphy, one of the prison employees – a mental health worker – had sex with him over 30 times. The Montana DOC took the Associated Press to court after the AP requested records related to the sexual misconduct investigation; state officials said they needed a judge to weigh privacy interests versus the public’s right to know.
“Corrections officers and officials whose work involves interacting with inmates at the Montana State Prison hold positions of high public trust involving the safety and well-being of the public, and therefore have a reduced expectation of privacy when accused of wrongdoing involving their interaction with inmates,” stated David K.W. Wilson, Jr., who represents the Associated Press. The public records suit is still pending. [See: Montana DOC v. Associated Press, 1st Judicial District Court (MT), Cause No. CDV-2008-1091].
Former prison guards Becky Willison and Keri Ann Brandt were charged with delivering contraband into a correctional facility, felony criminal conspiracy-escape, and giving false information to a law enforcement officer after it was discovered they had sneaked saw blades into the North Central Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. Willison was also charged with felony sexual assault and tampering with physical evidence.
Officials believe the two women were part of a foiled escape attempt hatched after Willison began having a sexual relationship with one of the three prisoners involved.
Willison pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Feb. 19, 2008 to five years in prison on state charges. In June 2008 she received a consecutive four-year sentence on related federal charges; Brandt received the same state and federal sentences as part of a plea bargain.
Former jail guard Jason Keller avoided trial on March 3, 2008 when he pleaded no contest to sexually abusing a female prisoner at the Hall County Jail. As part of the plea agreement, the County Attorney’s office recommended probation and opined that Keller would not have to register as a sex offender.
Gary Fowler was a teacher at the Omaha Correctional Facility when he engaged in an illegal sexual encounter with a 47-year-old prisoner. He was sentenced on October 14, 2008 to two years probation.
Nye County Deputy Sheriff Daryal Taylor was arrested on March 26, 2008 after a female prisoner accused him of sexual assault while he was transporting her. Investigators obtained information that corroborated the victim’s allegations, and determined that Taylor had used his position to obtain sex from the woman.
Former prison chaplain Ralph Flodin, 70, was indicted in June 2007 on nine counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault against a 24-year-old female prisoner. Flodin had been the chaplain at the Strafford County House of Corrections for over ten years. He was convicted following a jury trial in May 2008, based largely on a videotaped confession in which he admitted to touching and kissing the victim.
He was sentenced to 2 to 10 years in prison plus a 12-month suspended sentence on Sept. 5, 2008. “Sadly, what we have here is another instance when someone within the jail community has used his or her authority to coerce sexual favors,” said County Attorney Tom Velardi.
On November 18, 2008, Douglas Tower, 63, pleaded guilty to raping three women living at a halfway house. Tower was supervisor of the Shea Farm halfway house in Concord; he told the women he would return them to prison or deny visits from their children unless they submitted to his sexual demands.
As part of the plea bargain, charges involving 8 more victims were dropped. At the time of his guilty plea Tower was already serving 21 to 40 years for sexually assaulting two other residents at the halfway house. He received additional sentences of 10-20 years in the plea deal, which were suspended. Thirty female prisoners and one prison employee sued the state due to sexual abuse or harassment by Tower; the suits were settled in March 2008 for $1.9 million.
Cape May County jail guard Thomas Koochembere was convicted on February 28, 2008 of official misconduct and criminal sexual contact for having sex with two prisoners. Evidence presented at trial included one of the prisoner’s underwear, which contained Koochembere’s DNA.
One of his victims testified that she did not scream for help because the guard had power over her. “That man holds my freedom in his hands,” she stated. Koochembere contended that the women had in fact raped him, and that his DNA was obtained by force when they threatened him with a pair of scissors – an alleged incident he did not report at the time.
“Why did he do it?” asked Assistant Prosecutor Matthew D. Weintraub. “He did it because he could.”
Koochembere received sentences of 3 and 5 years on May 8, 2008. A federal lawsuit was filed against the county by one of the prisoners, Demetria Marshall. [See: Marshall v. Koochembere, U.S.D.C. (D. NJ), Case No. 1:07-cv-03191].
On February 22, 2009, Morris County guard Lon Sainato allegedly pressured a male prisoner performing community service work into a sex act. Sainato was charged with sexual assault and official misconduct.
Cibola County Detention Center guard Deandra McNeill, 20, was fired on March 4, 2009 after jail officials determined she had a sexual relationship with a prisoner. She was arrested by the State Police later that month and charged with criminal sexual penetration.
In a 2008 report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico had the highest rate of sexual victimization by staff members in a survey of over 280 jails nationwide. The facility is operated by CCA, and on Sept. 30, 2008, county and CCA officials appeared before the Review Panel on Prison Rape to discuss the jail’s excessively high rate of sexual abuse.
Interestingly, CCA’s general counsel, Gus Puryear, is a commissioner on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission – but has missed half of the Commission’s eight public hearings. [See: PLN, March 2009, p.6]. Apparently CCA places little importance on the prevention of sexual abuse in the company’s for-profit facilities.
In December 2006, Raymond “Mickey” Dunham, Jr., a major with the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department, was indicted on four counts of having sexual relations with a prisoner. Dunham was one of two unit managers at the Berkshire County House of Corrections.
Dunham initially insisted he was innocent, but pleaded guilty to having sex with two prisoners; he was sentenced in May 2008 to a maximum of one year and one day in prison.
Three civilian jail workers were arrested in November and December 2008, and charged with multiple counts of having sex with prisoners at the Gouverneur Correctional Facility.
The employees, all women, were Laura E. Douglass, Lisa A. Vaughn and Rachel S. Patterson.
Over the course of two years Vaughn allegedly had sex with four male prisoners. She was charged with 16 counts of third-degree rape, third-degree sexual assault and official misconduct. Douglass was charged with 11 counts of third-degree rape, one count of criminal sexual act and one count of promoting prison contraband. One of the women would reportedly stand lookout while the other had sex.
Patterson was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal sexual act and official misconduct, two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and one count of petit larceny.
It will be hard for former Bertie Correctional Facility guard Tameka Mebane to deny she had sex with a prisoner at the maximum-security prison, as one allegedly got her pregnant. She was criminally charged in February 2009. “According to her, she was pregnant from the inmate. That’s what she told me,” stated Windsor Police Sgt. Rick Morris. “I’m only human,” Mebane remarked. “Everyone makes mistakes.”
A dark cell turned into a dark day at trial for former Richland County jail guard James N. Campain. A former female prisoner testified that Campain turned out the lights in her cell and fondled her breasts, after which she sexually gratified him.
“He unzipped his pants, and I did what I did,” she stated. Campain later gave her cigarettes.
Campain’s misconduct was exposed when another female prisoner filed a grievance against him. She testified that while she worked in the kitchen Campain would rub up against her and ask to see her breasts. Campain was a 13-year veteran at the jail; he was charged with three counts of sexual battery, one count of gross sexual imposition and ten counts of dereliction of duty.
He was found guilty at trial in January 2008, sentenced to a total of nine years, and classified as a Tier III sex offender.
Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess resigned on April 16, 2008 after being accused of using female prisoners as sex slaves. Burgess, who had been sheriff since 1994, was charged with 35 felony counts including rape, forcible oral sodomy and bribery by a public official.
The allegations were brought by 12 former prisoners who testified they were coerced into participating in a variety of sexual activities for the jail’s employees, including wet T-shirt contests.
Several women testified that Burgess, who was a member of a drug court panel, threatened to send them to prison if they didn’t have sex with him. Members of the panel decide who attends the rehab program and who is incarcerated.
Burgess was convicted of 13 felony charges in January 2009, and received a 79-year sentence in March. The jury had recommended 94 years. A lawsuit has been filed against the county by Burgess’ victims. [See: McGowan v. Burgess, U.S.D.C. (WD Okla.), Case No. 5:07-cv-01168-HE].
Joi Ilene Starr, a former secretary at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center, was charged with first-degree rape on June 26, 2008. Starr admitted to a prison investigator that she had sex with a male prisoner the previous year. In July 2008, Katrina Lavern Hinds (aka Katrina Black), an employee at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, was charged with first-degree rape for engaging in sex with a prisoner. Although both Hinds and Starr’s sexual encounters were consensual, they still face up to life in prison if convicted.
In April 2009, former Jackie Brannon Correctional Center guard Stacy Marie Smith was charged with sexual battery and rape by instrumentation, involving a male prisoner. She was released on $10,000 bond.
Cindy L. Roberts was a contract nurse at the Cowlitz County Jail when she allegedly had sex with a 27-year-old prisoner. She was arrested on May 31, 2008 and charged with introducing contraband into a jail and attempted custodial sexual misconduct.
Paul Golden, a landscaper at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, a women’s prison, was jailed in January 2009 on charges of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct and providing contraband to prisoners.
Sex and contraband charges resulted in guilty verdicts in a wide-ranging investigation involving staff at the Monroe County Correctional Facility. Six former guards and a kitchen worker were charged. Ex-guard Mark Gutshall pleaded guilty to institutional sexual assault on Dec. 17, 2007 and received a 3-23 month prison sentence; he has since been paroled. The other jail employees, who were charged with contraband-related offenses, received probation. [See: PLN, Dec. 2007, p.1].
On July 11, 2008, former prison worker Gregory A. Williams was found guilty of four counts of institutional sexual assault and one count of official oppression; he was acquitted of four other charges. Williams was a food service manager at the Cambridge Springs Correctional Institution when he engaged in oral sex with prisoners Melissa Torres and Helen McCandless-Weiss. He was sentenced to a minimum of four months in jail on October 8, 2008.
Northumberland County Prison guard Brandon Fraim resigned on December 10, 2008 after he was caught in an amorous embrace with a female prisoner. Fraim admitted the incident happened but said, “I just got caught up with flirting with young girls. They make it sound like there was sex, but it was just kissing.”
However, videos revealed that Fraim had been sneaking into the women prisoners’ quarters since last spring. Prison guard Gregg Cupp also resigned; both he and Fraim were charged in January 2009 with having sexual contact with prisoners. Deputy Warden John Conrad had shrugged off initial reports of the guards’ misconduct as “silly talk.”
On November 13, 2008, former prison guard Michael Waters received a 23-month sentence for having sexual encounters with a female prisoner at the Delaware County Prison. He began serving his sentence, at his former workplace, later that same month.
On April 3, 2008, former prison guard Lori Clawson Johnson was arrested on charges of sexual misconduct with a prisoner following an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division and the Dept. of Corrections. Johnson was employed at the Tyger River Correctional Institution when the incidents occurred.
Jackson County Sheriff Kenneth Bean initially refused to step down after being charged with numerous counts of sexual contact involving at least 10 female jail prisoners. A six-month investigation revealed that Bean had coerced prisoners to have sex by threatening to plant evidence against them. He was also charged with failure to secure and maintain evidence.
“[Bean] offered and gave illegal drugs and favorable treatment to inmates in exchange for sexual favors,” said special prosecutor Alan Poindexter.
In September 2008, as part of a plea bargain, Sheriff Bean resigned and pleaded guilty to a charge of simple assault. Under the plea agreement he cannot run for sheriff again for six years. Additionally, three Jackson County deputies were convicted on charges involving sex with female prisoners.
On June 13, 2008, Kevin D. Vance, a former employee of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, was arrested and charged with having sexual contact with a female prisoner. Vance had worked at the jail for over three years.
Montgomery County jail employee Santiago Alcantara had been fired for the same offense a month earlier. Both Vance and Alcantara pleaded guilty in October 2008, and each received two years pre-trial diversion and probation.
Thomas Baccus was a guard at the Henderson County Jail when he was suspended in March 2008, then fired for having a sexual relationship with a female prisoner. He was arrested last June and charged with felony sexual contact and official misconduct. Baccus had previously been terminated from the Turney Center Industrial Prison, a state facility, for having white supremacy propaganda on his MySpace webpage.
Former Shelby County jail guard Antonious Totten was charged with sexual contact with a female prisoner in March 2007. Totten was supervising several women on a work detail when he decided to hook up with one of them. The two reportedly had sex in a van in full view of the other prisoners, who remained silent because they did not want to lose their jobs. After one prisoner eventually came forward they all were called as witnesses.
Totten’s attorney, Blake Ballin, called the witnesses against his client “a parade of liars, thieves, cheats and forgers.” Nevertheless, Totten was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail. The sentence was suspended except for time he had to serve on weekends.
On November 18, 2008, Angel Harris appeared in court on felony charges of having sexual contact with a prisoner. Harris was employed at the CCA-run Silverdale Detention Center in Chattanooga at the time the incident took place.
On July 2, 2008, three female guards at the Liberty County Jail, Angelia Perales, Techa Fowler and Tynisha Pierre, were arrested for having sex with prisoners. The women were employees of Civigenics, a private company that runs the jail; they were charged with violation of the civil rights of a person in custody, a felony.
“This type of offense is taken very seriously. Not only is it a violation of law, policies and procedures, it puts the safety of all people in the correctional facility at risk. If they are at risk, then the public is subsequently at risk,” said Sheriff Greg Arthur.
Guards at the South Texas Detention Complex, an immigration detention facility, have been accused of rampant sexual abuse involving detainees. Former guards at the prison went on record with local news reporters, saying that sexual abuse of female prisoners had been going on for years. According to investigators, guards threatened detainees with deportation and lied by telling them they could help them stay in the country if they had sex with them. The facility is operated by the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections).
One guard, Joseph Canales, was fired after he reportedly got a prisoner pregnant. But whistleblowers – several of whom were fired after reporting the sexual abuse – insisted that was only one of many pregnancies that resulted from rapist guards run amok at the detention facility. The allegations have been referred to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
David W. Morris was sentenced on June 2, 2008 to five years probation for having consensual sex with two female prisoners. He was caught on video sneaking into the women’s cells at the Jefferson County Jail. One of the prisoners was a former sheriff’s employee who had worked with Morris before she was incarcerated.
Lindsey Ann Russell lost her job as a Coryell County jail guard after she was arrested in September 2008 for improper sexual conduct with a prisoner. The following month another guard at the jail, Richard Samuel Linn, resigned after he was indicted on similar charges.
Last year’s sexual abuse scandal involving the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) has claimed yet another casualty. On August 11, 2008, former TYC guard Janice Marie Simpson was sentenced to four years deferred adjudication, probation, and a $500 fine for having sex with an 18-year-old prisoner at the Al Price Juvenile Correctional Facility.
A number of other TYC officials, including administrators Ray E. Brookins and John Paul Hernandez, were indicted on charges of sexually abusing juvenile offenders. [See: PLN, Feb. 2008, p.1]. Brookins’ trial has been delayed due to the arrest of his attorney, Scott M. Dolin, on undisclosed charges.
On February 27, 2009, six female guards at the Montague County Jail were indicted on charges of having sex with prisoners and bringing contraband into the facility. One of the guards, Shawna Marie Herr (aka Shawna Marie McCrary), pleaded guilty on March 23, 2009 and received five years probation and a $4,000 fine.
The former sheriff for Montague County, Bill Keating, faces a state charge involving sexual misconduct with a prisoner; he has already pleaded guilty to a federal charge of coercing a woman into having sex with him to avoid being jailed. Keating will be sentenced on May 1, 2009.
Carbon County drug court supervisor Melanie Madill pleaded guilty to one count of custodial sexual relations and three counts of evidence tampering on March 24, 2009. Madill was a jail guard over the county’s drug court when she had a sexual relationship with a prisoner and helped him and other prisoners pass drug tests. She has not yet been sentenced.
Patrick Owen Gee was head of security at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. He’s now serving time himself. Gee was convicted of four counts of carnal knowledge with a prisoner following a jury trial in October 2008. He entered Alford pleas to two other charges, and was sentenced on January 8, 2009 to 10 years in prison with five years suspended, plus two years of supervised probation.
In July 2007, current and former female prisoners joined together in a lawsuit against the Washington Dept. of Corrections. They accused prison officials of failing to protect them from sexual abuse by guards at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW).
The DOC promised major reforms in response to the class action suit; some of the changes include hiring more female guards, installing more surveillance cameras and having the State Patrol conduct an independent investigation. Seven male prison employees have been suspended.
The current and former WCCW prisoners are represented by Columbia Legal Services and the Public Interest Law Group; their lawsuit is still pending. [See: Doe v. Clarke, Thurston County Superior Court, Case No. 07-2-01513-0].
On November 14, 2008, Eddie Garbitt was sentenced to 1 year and 7 months after he pleaded guilty to three counts of custodial misconduct. Garbitt, a former WCCW supervisor and 15-year DOC veteran, had coerced three prisoners into having sex with him. He was originally charged with seven counts but four were dropped as part of a plea agreement.
A former mental health counselor at the King County juvenile detention center, Flo-Mari Crisostomo, began serving a six-month sentence on April 6, 2009 following her conviction on first-degree custodial sexual misconduct charges. She had sex with a 17-year-old prisoner and gave him candy and phone privileges. Her counseling license has since been revoked.
A guard at the Southern Regional Jail was arrested on October 21, 2008 for having sex with a prisoner. Stephen Gillespie was discovered by a supervisor, who literally caught him with his pants down; the 16-year veteran was released on $25,000 bond.
In June 2008, Becky Bathke, a former Oshkosh Correctional Institution employee, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for having sex with two male prisoners. Bathke worked in the prison’s education department when she arranged sexual encounters with prisoners Ryan K. Rowe and Mark Prevatt.
On January 15, 2008, jail guard Nanette Vorath was charged with three counts of engaging in illegal behavior with prisoners. The FBI had recorded 78 phone conversations between Vorath and prisoners at the Waukesha County Jail; she reportedly had a sexual relationship with one prisoner, gave another prescription drugs and supplied a third with smuggled documents.
Vorath was an 11-year veteran. She pleaded guilty to felony misconduct charges and was sentenced to three years probation on January 8, 2009.
Brian Bohlmann, a doctor at the Stanley Correctional Institution, was charged in August 2008 with six counts of sexual assault for inappropriately touching prisoners during medical examinations. While examining one male prisoner for back problems, Bohlmann allegedly concentrated his attention on the patient’s genital and rectal area.
On September 30, 2008, Julie Alt, a sergeant at the Oak Hill Correctional Institution, was charged with second-degree sexual assault and one count of intimidation. Alt reportedly had sex with two prisoners while working at the prison.
Investigators obtained a confession from one prisoner, Darius Wade. That confession led to taped phone calls between Wade and Alt, which provided investigators with even more evidence. “I’m going to lose my job and I’m going to end up in, probably second-degree sexual assault,” Alt stated in one recorded conversation.
Paul Vick, Jr., a sergeant at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, was charged on January 28, 2009 with 15 felonies related to sex involving three female prisoners. The charges include four counts of delivering illegal articles to a prisoner, five counts of second-degree sexual assault of a prisoner, one count of second-degree sexual assault by use of threat of force or violence, and five counts of misconduct in public office.
The sheer magnitude of the number of offenses listed in this article leaves little room for commentary – literally. PLN is a 56-page publication and could never contain the litany of sex offenses committed by prison and jail employees. The above list generally omits cases and articles previously reported in PLN. A December 2007 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report estimated that 38,600 state and federal prisoners had self-reported sexual abuse or misconduct by prison employees. A second report, released in June 2008, estimated that 15,200 prisoners had self-reported sexual victimization by jail staff.
According to another BJS report from 2006, 25% of sexual abuse allegations involving staff members that were officially reported and investigated were substantiated. While this percentage may seem low, consider that it is very difficult to prove misconduct by prison staff when the incarcerated victims are often deemed untrustworthy, and when the perpetrator’s co-workers are reluctant to break the “code of silence” prevalent in most correctional settings.
A 2005 U.S. Dept. of Justice report noted that “in many cases where there was sufficient evidence to prove that a staff member had sexually abused an inmate, the OIG has found that some prosecutors are reluctant to prosecute prison staff who do not use force or overt threats to obtain sex with inmates, often because the penalty is only a misdemeanor.”
Even when caught, many prison and jail workers who sexually abuse prisoners are not prosecuted. The BJS reported that in 2006, 77% of staff members involved in substantiated incidents of sexual abuse had resigned or were fired, while only 56% were referred for prosecution. Those who do face charges are often released on low bonds, plead to lesser charges that may not involve sex crimes, and receive short sentences or probation. Thus rape is perfectly acceptable as long as the victims are prisoners and the predators are government employees. In that case the norm is one of lackluster prosecution, sweetheart deals, suspended and probationary sentences.
Further, it is worth noting that few offenders are caught the first time; thus, it is safe to assume that many cases of sexual abuse by prison staff have gone undetected and unreported. According to a statement from Just Detention International (formerly Stop Prisoner Rape), “We know from speaking daily with prisoner rape survivors that the vast majority will never file a formal report.”
Evidence indicates that some prison and jail employees are rapists who have risen through the ranks undetected. More and more, we are witnessing years of sexual abuse come to light after having been concealed behind the striped sleeves and silver bars of correctional staff. PLN will continue to expose examples of sexual abuse by prison and jail workers, but, like an iceberg, the vast majority of such incidents remain hidden from sight.
Sources: Sexual Victimization in Local Jails Reported by Inmates (BJS 2007), Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities (BJS 2006), Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates (BJS 2007), Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Associated Press, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Daily Leader, Daily American, Deseret News, El Paso Times, Greenbay Gazette, Honolulu Advertiser, KMOV-TV, Ledger-Enquirer, Commercial Appeal, Livingston Daily Press & Argus, Miami Herald, Union Leader, News Journal, North Country Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Rocky Mountain News, San Luis Obispo Tribune, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Seattle Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Bellingham Herald, Boston Herald, Daily Item, Daily News, Daily Telegraph, Decatur County Chronicle, Grand Island Independent, Journal News, Leaf-Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, News Herald, News Tribune, Norman Transcript, Palm Beach Post, Press Enterprise, Pueblo Chieftan, Times Tribune, Times-Union, Wichita Eagle, Union Tribune, Watertown Daily Times, Waco Tribune-Herald, World-Herald, Tennessean, KENK, et al.