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Sexual Abuse in Vermont Prisons

Lawyers from the ACLU's National Prison Project filed a motion in federal court on August 25, 1995, asking the judge to issue a preliminary injunction to end physical and sexual abuse of prisoners in Vermont's sex offender behavior modification program. Affidavits filed by several prisoners allege that a treatment provider forces prisoners onto all fours and physically restrains them, simulates raping them anally, and screams obscenities at them.

Vermont's behavior modification program for sex offenders allegedly includes other techniques which the NPP is challenging as unconstitutional. According to the complaint filed in the case, these include forcing prisoners to masturbate while tape-recording their "deviant" fantasies, and playing the masturbation audiotapes in group sessions of other prisoners and staff.

Margaret Winter, a Prison Project lawyer, says that, "The plaintiffs will present evidence that there is no scientific support for such treatment as a means of reducing recidivism." According to Dr. Fred Berlin, an international expert on the treatment of sexual disorders and founder of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at John Hopkins, "If therapy is to be successful, it must teach the participants to respect others by, in turn, respecting them as human beings, this will not be achieved through demeaning treatment, offensive language, and crude posturing."

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