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Colorado Teenagers Raped By Guards Settle For $165,000 Each

In August 2004, two teenage girls raped by guards at a Colorado juvenile prison settled their lawsuits for $165,000 apiece. Both girls had been imprisoned at the Youthful Offender System (YOS), which is operated by the Colorado Department of Corrections. Their lawsuits were identical and involved the same defendants. The facts presented here were taken from one of those lawsuits.

Seventeen-year-o1d Angel arrived at the male-dominated YOS in July 2001 after spending three long months at boot camp, a rigorous military-style program that all incoming prisoners must complete. At the time YOS housed approximately 200 males and 6 teenage girls.

Soon after arriving, Angel was subjected to constant sexual harassment from both the guards and the young male prisoners. The atmosphere at YOS was sexually charged with the youths regularly engaging in sex. Teenage boys were having sex with guards and female prisoners; guards were initiating sex through force or with bribes of candy and favors.

Everyone at YOS, prisoners and staff alike, knew of the ongoing sexual assaults and rapes. The rampant sexual misconduct had previously resulted in multiple pregnancies of female prisoners (as a result Angel and other girls were forced to take birth control pills), and guards openly discussed which guards were molesting which girls.

The girls lived together in a dormitory that had no locks on the doors. Nighttime security consisted of two guards, usually males. Their only apparent supervision was a single supervisor who patrolled the grounds on a bicycle. There are no security cameras at YOS.

The girls were easy prey for the wolves guarding them. In July 2001 guard Gary Neal raped Angel in an office while his partner, Steve Sanchez, hid out of sight. A week later another guard, Duane Coleman, skulked into Angel’s room and raped her roommate while Angel lay crying in her bed. Coleman had been Angel’s drill instructor at boot camp; he was a man she trusted.

Although Angel didn’t immediately report the rape for fear of retaliation—guards had the authority at any time to return prisoners to boot camp or have them sent to adult prison—Neal eventually confessed to sexual contact and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The resulting investigation found that at least three other girls had also been raped by guards, making it a nearly universal experience among the six girls. It’s unknown if any of the other guards were criminally charged.

After Neal was fired, the prison’s director, Brian Gomez, and other guards retaliated against Angel, just as she had feared. As one example, when Angel appeared in court for her reconsideration hearing a few months after reporting Neal, Gomez tried to have her “revoked” and sent to adult prison. The judge refused stating that Gomez was running a private brothel for the benefit of his staff.

Furthermore, once the criminal investigation began against Neal, prison officials “threatened violence against witnesses and their families in order to prevent discovery of the sexual assaults,” and attempted to cover up the abuses by lying to investigators.

Angel ultimately sued multiple guards and prison staff under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court seeking compensatory, punitive, and special damages. She specifically alleged violation of her constitutional rights and failure to properly screen, hire, supervise and discipline prison employees.

Rather than proceed to trial, the defendants settled for $165,000 with each plaintiff. Both plaintiffs were represented by Julia Yoo and Eugene G. Iredale of San Diego, California. See: Castro v. Neal, USDC, D. CO, Case No. 03-WM-1247 (MJW).

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Related legal cases

Castro v. Neal

No other information is currently available.

Castro v. Neal