Psychologists will quickly tell you that rape is not about sex. It's about power. It's about imposing one's will on another. It's about masking feelings of inadequacy with intimidation about artificially inflating one's low self esteem by abusing someone else. Sex is just a symptom. So it's little wonder that so many prison and jail guards, when entrusted with a modicum of power, succumb to the temptation to sexually assault the prisoners under their care.
Incident after incident reveals a national epidemic of authority run amok in the hands of abusive detention facility employees, who have insufficient supervision and even less self control. In just one case, first degree sexual misconduct, indecent liberties and second-degree custodial misconduct are among the charges facing as many as eight King County Jail guards in Seattle, Washington.
In an unfolding investigation that one source has termed a culture of harassment, two guards, Louis Gano Laurencio, 45, and Cedric Darnell McGrew, 40, were arrested on May 6, 2005, while a third was arrested later that month and charges are pending against a fourth. All were placed on administrative leave. The investigation began in April 2005 when Laurencio and McGrew were accused of having sex with a 27-year-old female prisoner. An ensuing search of one guards home indicated there might be multiple victims.
That suspicion was verified when photos of nude women and stacks of sexually explicit letters written by female inmates were found in the locker of one of the guards. The investigation revealed that the two tag-teamed the victim, with one having sex with her while the other stood watch.
The female prisoner said McGrew approached her with sexually explicit requests immediately upon her arrival at the jail. He once asked her if her breasts were real over a loudspeaker. She also accused him of offering her and another female prisoner alcohol and marijuana in return for a show. When she accused Laurencio of taking pictures of her breasts with a digital camera, a search of his locker verified her claim. Events escalated over time until McGrew and Laurencio forced the woman into an isolated room where they took turns sexually assaulting her.
Investigators even heard the two guards incriminate themselves on tape after the victim agreed to wear a wire. Never suspecting the sting, one guard was recorded saying, let's do it right now. McGrew was charged with first-degree custodial sexual misconduct while Laurencio was charged with second-degree custodial sexual misconduct.
Detectives originally thought the investigation would involve only the two. But more misconduct was revealed when an unidentified third guard was named in a sexual assault that had occurred two years earlier. He was implicated by one of the letters found during the search and detention of McGrew and Laurencio, and was accused of forcing a female prisoner to perform oral sex. He is under investigation but has not yet been charged. A fourth King County guard, Harland D. Richmond, 36, the son of a retired member of the sheriff's command staff, was charged on February 9, 2006 with engaging in sexual activity with two female prisoners in exchange for drugs, food and other favors. He is accused of fondling the two women in separate encounters on October 21, 2005, and then engaging in sexual conduct with one of them that night.
Brigette Sarabi, executive director of the Oregon-based Western Prison Project, said, There's no way sexual contact between someone incarcerated and the person guarding them can be consensual. The power differential is too great. You can't say no. It is flat-out prisoner abuse.
You'll have these women coming in, some of them strung out on drugs. "They're hungry, starving and the diet in the jail doesn't provide enough calories for them while they're coming down", said a source close to the investigation. "They'll give a [sex] show for a candy bar." Many women prisoners are drug addicts who have worked in the sex industry to support their habits.
In March 2006, King County officials, apparently unable to resolve the problem of guards having sex with prisoners, asked for help from The Moss Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, to deal with the issue of sexual misconduct at the jail. The FBI has opened an investigation of the jail related to civil rights violations. The criminal cases against Laurencio, McGrew and Richmond are still pending.
Just as Washington State is only the tip of the United States, the culture of harassment referred to above is just the tip of an insidious iceberg of moral malignancy metastasizing throughout our nation's prisons. No state is immune and no vaccine available as prisoners are preyed upon by their supposed protectors.
In June 2005, Derrick Burton, 21, and Brian Fuller, 22, were fired from their jobs as Chambers County jail guards and charged with custodial sexual misconduct. Alabama officials were tight-lipped about the aggressive six-month investigation that led to the dismissal of the former guards. Each was accused of exchanging personal items with female prisoners for sexual favors.
As in other states, sexual conduct between guards and prisoners is illegal in Alabama. Burton was charged with two counts of sexual misconduct while Fuller was charged with one. If convicted, both men faced up to 10 years in prison on each count. Instead they took plea bargains. Fuller was sentenced on October 19, 2005 to three years, of which all but 90 days was suspended, plus three years probation. Burton pled guilty and was sentenced on February 27, 2006 to a 30-month suspended sentence and 100 hours of community service work. Earlier in 2005, female prisoners at the jail had filed a lawsuit claiming that guards provided personal items in exchange for sex acts.
Chad Little, a former guard at the Fairhope jail, was accused of repeatedly raping Shaunna Crocker, a 22-year-old female prisoner. Crocker tearfully testified that Little forced himself on her four or five times while she was held at the jail. According to her testimony Little first raped her on June 18, 2003. That was the first day I have ever been raped in my life, she said. Little, however, insisted that the sex was consensual.
Because Alabama hadn't criminalized sex with prisoners at the time that he sexually assaulted Crocker, Little was charged with criminal ethics violations for using his office for personal gain.
On March 24, 2004, Crocker and her husband, Michael, filed a lawsuit against Little for the sexual abuse and for damaging their marital relationship. Michael Crocker also testified that he was threatened by Fairhope Police Lt. L.G. Brower, who tried to get him to stop complaining about the department. The lawsuit went to trial in May 2005, and a federal jury ruled against the Crockers. Little received pretrial diversion on the misdemeanor ethics violation in September 2005.
Kathleen Liden, 44, pleaded guilty in July 2004 to having a sexual relationship with a minor while she worked as a guard at the Adobe Mountain School, a juvenile correctional facility. Liden was convicted of unlawful sexual contact with an incarcerated youth and attempted unlawful sexual contact with an incarcerated youth; her 16-year-old victim was serving a one-year sentence for violating his probation when Liden molested him. She was sentenced in November 2004 to three years in prison.
Another juvenile detention guard, Mike Hollingsworth, was sentenced on October 25, 2004 to four months in jail and three years probation after being convicted of child prostitution. In June 2004 Hollingsworth offered candy, cigarettes and a soda to a young girl in custody as an enticement for her to expose her breasts. Judge Janice Sterling reprimanded Hollingsworth, saying, You were the officer of this court. I could not imagine a worse setting in which you could have committed these offenses. Hollingsworth admitted his mistake and begged for mercy, saying he needed to support his family. He was allowed to participate in work-release while he served his short sentence.
Kevin Richard Carlisle, 40, was arrested on July 29, 2005 for kidnapping and sexual assault of a 16-year-old detainee. Carlisle was a 15-year veteran with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The girl told Phoenix police officers that Carlisle first touched her inappropriately on July 14 after he had handcuffed her and placed her in the back seat of his car. Later, Carlisle took her to an ICE detention facility, where he was captured on video when he escorted the girl to an isolated room and touched her inappropriately again.
Carlisle denied any wrong-doing, saying he only ran his fingers around the girls waistband. However, Phoenix police Sgt. Lauri Williams said that Carlisles search procedure certainly wouldnt fall into any policy of any law enforcement agency I know. Carlisle was freed on $15,000 bond and placed on paid administrative leave; the criminal charges against him are pending.
Sexual assault charges were filed on July 26, 2004 against two law enforcement officials in Riverside County, California. Sheriffs Deputy John Burns and correctional deputy Joseph Bessette were accused of having illegal sexual contact with multiple female prisoners at the Indio Jail. A third guard, Ricardo Barrios, was also implicated but was cleared due to insufficient evidence.
Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle discovered the guards misconduct by accident. Burns and Bessette were placed on paid administrative leave and investigated by a special team they were accused of having sex with nine female prisoners at the jail between December 2002 and May 2004. Some of the women stated they engaged in the sex acts in exchange for clothing, blankets and toiletries, or to avoid mistreatment. One of the prisoners, Rebecca Bateman, 28, filed suit against the former guards on January 12, 2006. Her attorney, Daniel M. McGee, stated, Why are there male jailers in control and supervising female inmates?
Ironically, the jails investigative team itself was placed under investigation for forcing the guards to submit to questioning and a polygraph test while refusing them the right to have either counsel or a union representative present. A petition filed by Burns and Bessette requested that all documents, notes, interviews and polygraph results be excluded, alleging they were illegally obtained. Their criminal cases have not yet gone to trial.
The Ventura Youth Correctional Facility for girls is also under fire as many as a dozen guards at the prison face accusations of coercing sex from prisoners in exchange for special favors.
A 20-year-old Yorba Linda woman, formerly incarcerated at the facility in Camarillo, raised the alarm in December 2004 when she claimed she was sexually assaulted in 2003 and 2004. She also accused the guards of bringing jewelry, extra food and other gifts to cooperative prisoners. Six guards were placed on administrative leave during an investigation, although apparently no criminal charges were filed.
Five years ago, five employees at the same Ventura facility were ousted for having sex with prisoners. That two-year investigation also led to the suspension of the schools top three administrators.
National experts have published several damaging reports that criticize the California Youth Authoritys tendency to warehouse and drug their wards rather than counsel them. Daniel Macallair, executive director of the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile Criminal Justice, insists that this is stuff thats been going on for years.... Youve got a system used to operating without a lot of accountability.
Four current and former juvenile prisoners at the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino filed suit against prison guard James Shelby and others in December 2004. The minors claimed that Shelby pressured them to perform sex acts and ordered beatings by other prisoners. Shelby was also accused of rewarding compliant prisoners with contraband items, including TVs and cell phones. He was placed on paid leave during an investigation.
In the lawsuit filed by the juveniles, Ruelas v. State of California, a Superior Court judge ruled in December 2004 that California law prohibited the prisoners from bringing federal § 1983 claims against the Youth Authority itself, but allowed the case to go forward against Shelby and other staff members.
An unrelated lawsuit, filed on January 6, 2005, accused Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) guard Louis Johnson of raping Nereyda Escalante, 32, who was incarcerated at a Department of Homeland Security detention facility in Otay Mesa, California.
The complaint named both Johnson and CCA and stated Escalante was assigned to a room where she would fill bags of candy for other detainees. Upon entering the room defendant Johnson closed the door. Inside the room ... out of view of security cameras ... Johnson violently pushed plaintiff to the floor, pulled her pants and underpants down, and forcibly raped her&.
The complaint went on to say that Johnson repeated the incident the next day in the same manner. The sexual assaults took place on December 15 and 16, 2004. CCA spokesman Steve Owen stated that Johnson was put on paid administrative leave. Owen would not comment further on the case except to say, Our company has zero tolerance for any inappropriate conduct from our employees.
However, records from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement reveal four complaints made by prisoners in 2004 against the CCA prison. In 2003, one male prisoner sued a prison employee whom he accused of forcing him to have oral sex. CCA reached a settlement with the prisoner in that case.
According to Stephen Waldman, Escalantes attorney, the lawsuit against Johnson and CCA was settled in October 2005 under confidential terms. (See: Escalante v. CCA, USDC, D CA Case No. 05-CV-0022WQH).
And on July 28, 2005, Jasper Ayala, a former lieutenant at the California Prison for Women, was sentenced to nine months in jail for having sex with a female prisoner. Ayala pleaded no contest to two felony charges; he reportedly coerced the prisoner to perform a sex act, and she provided investigators with DNA evidence from the sexual encounter. Ayala was allowed to serve his jail sentence on weekends.
Prison guard Melanie Ochoa, 32, was freed on $10,000 bond after being charged with felony sexual conduct in a penal institution. Ochoa, who worked at a privately-operated community corrections facility in Denver, was arrested on February 5, 2005. She was accused of having sexual contact with a 31-year-old male prisoner in October 2004. Ochoa pled guilty on June 15, 2005 to official misconduct, and was sentenced to two years supervised probation and 100 hours of community service.
Perfecto Hijar, a lieutenant at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Crowley County, Colorado, was charged on May 31, 2005 with felony sexual assault, sexual misconduct in a penal institution and misdemeanor official misconduct. Hijar, 51, a former Crowley County sheriffs official, had been arrested on March 1, 2005 and released on bond the same day. Though details were sparse it was reported that Hijar illegally and intentionally inflicted sexual assault on a prisoner after coercing him to perform sexual acts.
Hijar entered into a plea agreement in which the sexual misconduct charges were dropped; in January 2006 he pled guilty to a charge of introducing contraband into a penal facility and received two years probation, 50 hours community service and ten days home confinement.
State Judicial Marshal Jemar Smith, 27, was arraigned on January 28, 2005 and charged with two counts of sexually molesting a 19-year-old female prisoner. Three sexually explicit letters discovered in the womans property prompted the investigation.
Smith met his imprisoned paramour in October 2003. The two became close during subsequent meetings as she made court appearances between Dec. 2003 and May 2004. In a written statement the woman admitted that Smith grabbed her breast while she was in a courthouse holding cell. He also caressed her beneath her clothing as she returned from court, according to the warrant. The woman said the contact was consensual.
Smith further admitted corresponding with two other female prisoners but both women told police there had been no physical contact. Smith, a six-year veteran, was suspended with pay on September 28, 2005 and released on a $10,000 non-surety bond. On May 2, 2006 he pled no contest to one count of unlawful second restraint and received six months in jail.
Kenneth Joyner, a St. Lucie County sheriffs deputy, was fired in March 2005 after an investigation confirmed that he had tried to coax a male prisoner into exposing himself and engaging in sexually explicit correspondence and conversation.
Joyner, a four-year veteran, initially denied the charges but broke down when he was told that his conversations had been recorded. Amid a lot of long sighs, Joyner admitted, I was an idiot. He has appealed the loss of his job despite a finding by the internal affairs office that he violated the code of ethics for public employees, engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and lied under oath.
Craig Mandel Hall, 35, was a booking guard at the Orient Road Jail in Hillsborough County, Florida. He was later incarcerated there. Hall was arrested after a 25-year-old female prisoner accused him of forcing her to have sex several times between December 2004 and January 2005. On May 8, 2005, Hall was imprisoned himself.
Lisa Haber, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office, said, We started an internal affairs investigation and as a result they were able to gather enough evidence to charge him. He is in a position of custodial authority, and ... she is telling us that it was not consensual. The woman worked as a trusty in the jail at the time. Hall, who was eventually released on $50,000 bond, is facing an August 7, 2006 jury trial on four counts of sexual misconduct with a prisoner.
Gregory Louis, 38, a Hernando County jail guard, was arrested on November 30, 2004 and charged with sexually assaulting Kim Hines, a 17-year-old female prisoner. Twice.
According to a Hernando County sheriffs report, Louis approached Hines as she stepped out of the shower, backed her against a sink and fondled her. He repeated the incident a few days later, the report indicates.
The jail, which is run by CCA, lacks adequate space for correctly housing juvenile offenders, leaving many vulnerable to attack. Louis, who previously had been named CCAs workhouse employee of the month in February 2003, was freed on $20,000 bond. He subsequently pled guilty and was sentenced to six months in jail.
Ajmo Jolicoeur, 22, a guard at the Homestead Correctional Institution, was charged on June 16, 2005 with raping an unnamed female prisoner. While working the midnight shift in the prison, Jolicoeur reportedly threatened the woman with confinement in close custody if she didnt comply with his demands for sex. She eventually succumbed to his threats. Jolicoeur would send her to the empty communal showers late at night, where he raped her repeatedly from June through August 2004.
On August 17, 2004 the prisoner tested positive for pregnancy. Jolicoeur resigned the same day. On March 8, 2005 the woman gave birth to a baby girl; DNA tests proved the guards paternity. Faced with this incontrovertible evidence, Jolicoeur pled guilty to one count of having improper sexual relations with a prisoner and received an 18-month sentence.
Christopher Michael Byrd, 33, a nurse at the Bay County jail annex, was arrested on July 16, 2005 and charged with sexual misconduct with a prisoner. Byrd, who is married, was accused of having a female prisoner sent to the annex unescorted. Once the prisoner arrived she and Byrd engaged in foreplay while she disrobed. The two then had sex on an examining table in the medical unit. Byrd and a jail supervisor were fired in connection with the incident. The Bay County facility is run by CCA.
Beverly Elaine Simmons, a deputy with the Thomas County Sheriffs Office, was arrested on October 18, 2005 and charged with sexual assault on a person in custody and violation of oath of office.
After a two-month investigation that involved the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), it was determined that Simmons indulged in at least three sexual encounters with her prison paramour. They confronted the officer and during the interview process she confessed and owned up to the accusations, stated Thomas County Sheriffs Captain John Richards. Simmons was released on her own recognizance; the charges were still outstanding as of July 2006, and she faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
On June 17, 2005, juvenile prison guard Thomas P. ODonnell, 40, was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse and official misconduct. ODonnell worked at the St. Clair County Juvenile Detention Center, where he was accused of bringing his 14-year-old victim candy and cookies before getting into bed with the boy and touching him inappropriately on April 20, 2005. The boys family has since filed a lawsuit seeking over $1 million in damages. ODonnell was released after posting 10% of a $150,000 bond; the criminal charges and civil lawsuit filed against him are pending.
Timothy Gregory, a guard in Tazewell County, Illinois, resigned on November 4, 2005 after admitting to sexual misconduct with a female prisoner. The guard was in direct supervision of the woman with whom he was involved. Evidence indicates that the two had multiple meetings in unmonitored areas of the Tazewell Justice Center. Charges of custodial sexual misconduct and official misconduct were eventually filed by the state attorneys office; on March 13, 2006, Gregory pled guilty to official misconduct and was placed on probation for 24 months.
Sheriff Robert Huston stated, I was extremely unhappy about this incident.... None of us here wants to see this department tarnished by this incident. Note to Sheriff Huston its too late!
Pause for the Cause
To this point the article has largely written itself. The facts are more revealing than any commentary this author can offer. But it seems appropriate to pause momentarily and remind the reader that, despite the redundant use of the words sex and rape, this article is not about sexual abuse. Its about the abuse of power. Sex is the symptom of a deeper social disease, a deviancy that goes beyond the uniforms of jail and prison officials to sexual abuse that is condoned by those who wear judicial robes.
Illinois is located in the center of this country and is central to this article, as the attitude of its jurists is central to the problem of indifference to sexual abuse enabling the abusers. Illinois will be revisited at the end of this article because the Illinois justice system literally reflects our ill justice system.
Had the crimes detailed above involved ordinary citizens, prosecution would have been swift, high bonds and pre-trial incarceration automatic, and lengthy prison sentences upon conviction the norm. The raped prisoners would be treated as victims with the attendant rights that goes with status of good victims. Instead, because prison and jail guards are involved, a certain amount of leniency is afforded. Too frequently law enforcement and judicial officials favor fraternity over justice.
PLN has always encouraged its readers to see the other side of the coin. While its writers, many of whom are imprisoned, may at times seem biased, the facts speak for themselves. In some cases, including the following additional examples, they literally cry out for justice.
On June 11, 2004, four guards at the privately-operated Basile Detention Center were indicted for illegal sexual contact with female prisoners. Kenneth L. Stevenson, Sr., Frank Lenoir, Horace Edwards and Jeffrey Collins were accused of malfeasance in office; the indictments followed four days of testimony from investigators, other guards and 22 witnesses. Their accusers were female prisoners from Alabama who had been temporarily relocated to Louisiana to relieve overcrowding, and the investigation was initiated by the Alabama DOC.
A court order issued in April 2003 required the Alabama DOC to reduce its prison population. Alabama officials reached an agreement with LCS Corrections Services, and sent more than 200 women to Louisiana lockups. LCS, a for-profit company founded in 1990, is based in Lafayette and operates various prisons in Louisiana.
LCS employees Edwards and Collins were fired immediately. Stevenson and Lenoir were placed on administrative leave. On July 1, 2004 all four men pleaded not guilty to the charges. There is definite misconduct that did occur, and we will follow through with it, said Evangeline Parish District Attorney Brent Coreil. Edwards pled guilty on Oct. 31, 2005 and received a two-year prison sentence, which was suspended; he was placed on probation and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine. Court records do not reveal the disposition of the charges against the other three defendants.
Previously, in July 2003, another LCS guard, Todd Daniel Arnold, 22, was charged with having sex with a female prisoner at the Pine Prairie Correctional Center. He was released on $7,500 bond, pleaded guilty on March 18, 2004, and sentenced to three years suspended to probation and a $1,000 fine. Two years prior to that incident the former warden of the Evangeline Parish Jail was convicted on two counts of malfeasance in office for extorting sex acts from family members of prisoners. Michael J. Savant, 48, was sentenced to serve six months in jail and placed on three years probation.
On February 11, 2004, Bossier Parish sheriffs employee William Olan Wise, 26, was charged with two counts of malfeasance in office for engaging in sexual activities with a female parish prisoner. Wise was accused of taking the 21-year-old woman out of her housing area and touching her inappropriately on two occasions. This was not consensual in the sense that Mr. Wise was the initiator and aggressor it appears in this case, stated sheriffs spokesman Ed Baswell.
Wise pled no contest to one of the malfeasance charges on December 16, 2005 and was sentenced to three years in prison, which was suspended; he was placed on probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. The other charge was dismissed.
Dawn Chambers, 44, a former employee at the Penobscot County jail, was sentenced on July 21, 2005 to two years in prison for having sex with a prisoner. The Penobscot Superior Court found the petite blonde guilty of engaging in sexual relations on January 30 and February 2, 2005 with a 27-year-old prisoner who worked with her in the jails kitchen.
The prisoner claimed that Chambers smuggled drugs into the jail to trade for sex. My client vigorously denies drug smuggling, said Chambers attorney. All but 30 days of Chambers sentence was suspended; however, because sex between prisoners and jail employees is a felony in Maine, she is now required to register as a sex offender for the next ten years.
Emmanuel Deris, 35, a guard at the Baltimore County Detention Center, was arrested on August 29, 2004 and charged with illegal sexual contact with a female prisoner. According to the victim, Deris had forced her to perform a sex act on him. Then, in a separate incident, the guard put his hands down the womans pants.
Deris was charged with a second-degree sex offense, a fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault. He posted a $35,000 bond the day after he was arrested; he had worked at the jail about 18 months.
Scott Kevin Andrews, 45, a guard at the St. Clair County jail, was charged on February 24, 2005 with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Andrews, a 20-year jail employee, was accused of inappropriately touching a female prisoner on January 17, 2005. His arraignment took an unusual twist when, for unexplained reasons, magistrate Keith Bankston censored the proceedings. In St. Clair County arraignments are public domain, and are usually televised via closed circuit monitors in the courthouse hallway. Andrews arraignment was not broadcast. Chief Judge Cynthia Platzer said she would investigate the matter.
Andrews was released on a $2,500 personal recognizance bond. He pleaded guilty on May 2, 2005 and received three years probation.
Kenneth W. Sanders, 42, another St. Clair County jail guard, was charged with felony sexual assault and attempted sexual assault on March 4, 2005.
In a second investigation on March 15, Saunders was accused of sexually assaulting a female prisoner in the St. Clair County jail. Represented by attorney Malcolm Floyd, the 7-year veteran pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted of the multiple felonies Saunders faced up to five years in prison. Instead he took a plea bargain, and was sentenced on June 20, 2005 to 180 days in jail and three years probation.
David R. Dorland, 44, a former Antrim County jail guard, was convicted on one count of second-degree attempted criminal sexual conduct and two counts of gross indecency. Dorland pleaded guilty on September 19, 2005 after admitting to sexual contact with as many as nine female prisoners.
Judge Thomas Power sentenced Dorland to 40-60 months in prison, which exceeded state sentencing guidelines. Power justified the excessive time by saying the legal limits do not adequately address the abuse of authority that occurred here. When I send somebody to jail, I certainly dont send them for the purpose of being molested.
Dorland traded favors for sex from female prisoners. His attorney, Joseph Aprea, stressed that all the guards relationships were consensual. Dorland will still be required to register as a sex offender. [See the February, 2006, issue of PLN for a more extensive expose on the Michigan DOCs culture of rape.]
Randall Nester, 37, a probation officer in Johnson County, Missouri, was sentenced on April 7, 2005 to 30 months in prison on corruption charges. The sentence was imposed after Nester pled guilty to four counts of sexual misconduct.
In January 2003 a woman accused Nester, a five-year veteran of the Johnson County DOC, of touching her inappropriately. The resulting investigation produced more victims who accused the probation officer of groping them in his office and during home visits. Nester had threatened to return the women to jail if they refused his sexual advances. If thats not an abuse of authority, I dont know what is, said Jackson County Circuit Judge Edith Messina. I dont know what message you were sending these women, but their lives are no less important than anyone elses.
Johnson County subsequently released one victim who had been re-imprisoned by Nester after she rejected his advances.
After giving birth in January 2004, Korinda Martin and the father of her child, Randy Easter, appeared before District Judge Stewart Bell but not to declare nuptials. On January 5, 2005 Easter pleaded guilty to a felony charge of voluntary sexual conduct with a prisoner. Martin pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit a crime, a misdemeanor.
Easter had impregnated Martin in 2003, when she was a prisoner at Southern Nevada Womens Correctional Center and he was a guard. The prison was operated by CCA, Easters employer; it has since reverted to state control.
According to Gerald Gardner of the Nevada Attorney Generals office, Easter was actually victimized by Martin, who was known to initiate relationships with guards in exchange for favors. Both Martin and Easter were sentenced to probation in April 2005.
Sean Higgins, 30, a guard at the Union County jail in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was indicted on March 31, 2005 on five counts of sexual assault, 19 charges of official misconduct and 15 counts of sexual contact. He was accused of groping himself and fondling 11 female prisoners in exchange for cigarettes, candy or other favors. Our investigation with Union County Police detectives uncovered evidence supporting charges that this corrections officer betrayed his badge and uniform and took advantage of females entrusted to his care for his own selfish sexual gratification, stated prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.
Attorney Robert T. Norton said his client would plead not guilty. Higgins, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, was freed on $75,000 bond on the 39-count indictment. His trial date is pending.
Demi-Anne Varchi-Little, 25, a guard with Somerset Countys Sheriffs Office, was charged on June 20, 2005 with second-degree official misconduct and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact after she was caught red-handed engaged in sex with prisoner Christopher Capparelli, 26. Varchi-Little was a kitchen supervisor when she and Capparelli slipped into an office for about an hour on April 8, 2005. While the two were otherwise occupied another guard walked in and caught them.
After an internal affairs investigation Varchi-Little was arrested, charged and released on $10,000 bail. The case has not yet gone to trial.
In March 2005, Jeannette Zayas, 39, a former guard at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to engaging in sex with a gang-affiliated prisoner known only as A.O. Zayas admitted to having five or six intimate encounters with A.O. over a four-month period, including sexual acts in one of the prison bathrooms. She sent him letters and photos, and let him use her cell phone. Zayas also updated A.O. on prison procedures and prisoner movements.
She was sentenced on September 12, 2005 to three months in prison and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine; Zayas was allowed to remain free on bond until ordered to report to a federal facility to begin her sentence.
Roosevelt County Deputy Gary Adkins, 47, was charged in mid-July 2005 with criminal sexual penetration of Ashley LeMier, 24, a jail prisoner. The incident allegedly occurred on July 1, 2005 when the deputy took an inmate out of the jail and drove her to an isolated area, where he engaged in some sexual acts, said Peter Olson, communications director for the New Mexico Dept. of Public Safety.
On July 6, 2006, Adkins was sentenced to five years on the felony charge. According to District Attorney Matt Chandler, Adkins semen was found on the passenger side of the patrol car he used when he removed LeMier from the jail and sexually assaulted her. This is not a case of consensual and nonconsensual sex, stated Ninth Judicial District Judge Ted Hartley, who sentenced Adkins. Its an absolute violation of the law. We cannot allow this to happen as a society. I dont care who enticed who. I dont care who started it.
Nicholas Defonte, 47, was arrested at work on March 29, 2005 and charged with illegally having sex with a female prisoner under his care. According to witnesses, between July and December 2001 Defonte frequently had sex with his captive victim as another prisoner stood lookout. The guard was once caught kissing and groping the woman in the kitchen freezer. The complaint also disclosed that the prisoner had performed oral sex on Defonte and that he would sometimes hide under a table and perform sex acts on her.
Defonte, who was married with children, worked at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York at the time of his arrest. He was charged with five counts and released on his own recognizance.
Defonte was acquitted of two charges and convicted of three, including two sexual assaults and making false statements, following a jury trial held from March 29 to April 3, 2006. He has not yet been sentenced.
Aaron S. Sklener and his father, James F. Sklener, both guards at Albion Correctional Facility, were arrested on March 30, 2005 in connection with sexual contact with an 18-year-old prisoner.
Aaron, 33, was charged with misdemeanor second-degree sexual abuse and official misconduct based on accusations of touching a female prisoner in an intimate area. Because she is incarcerated, she cant consent to any sexual acts with a corrections officer, said Investigator Michael Notto of the State Police Criminal Investigation Bureau. He went on to say that when the victim came forward, so did other inmates.
James Sklener tried to cover for his son; as a result he was charged with felony third-degree intimidating a victim or witness and misdemeanor official misconduct. He called her into the hallway and made threats in an attempt to coerce her into not cooperating with the investigation, said Notto. He made threats implying that if she cooperated, he would retaliate against her.
The younger Sklener was released on his own recognizance. His father was issued a court appearance ticket.
Twelve prison guards at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility have been charged with various counts of physical abuse, sexual abuse and endangerment of young prisoners. Five indictments were handed down on December 7, 2004, including against guard Cardinal B. Paige, 47, who was indicted on one count of illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material (later dismissed) and one count of sexual battery. The charges involved different prisoners, one age 16 and the other age 20.
Paige pleaded guilty in early April 2005 in order to avoid a jury trial. He claims that he had been enticed by the girls, said prosecutor Dave Yost. One incident amounted to a live performance for one. Paige received 60 days in jail, which he was allowed to serve on weekends. The judge postponed the start of Paiges sentence so he could first take a vacation.
Matthew Gordon, another guard at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, is being sued by 19-year-old Jessica Penny, a former prisoner who accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex while she was in an isolated cell on suicide watch on February 14, 2003. Yes, on Valentines Day.
Gordon served less than six months following convictions for sexual battery and attempted sexual battery. Pennys lawsuit, filed by attorney Benson Wolman, asks for monetary damages and an apology from Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. The suit is still pending. (See: Penny v. Gordon, USDC SD OH, Case No. 2:05-cv-00147-EAS-TPK).
On October 19, 2004, Latimer County Sheriff Melvin Holly, 64, was arrested and held in the Muskogee County Jail on federal charges of making a false statement and witness intimidation. FBI agents had interviewed Holly on Sept. 15, 2004 regarding charges of sexual assault brought by three Latimer County prisoners. All three said Holly forced them to have sex. One said he served her moonshine; another stated he told her she would end up dead ... floating face down in a river if she told anyone.
Jail prisoner Rebecca Preston claimed that Holly had her accompany him as a date to a meeting of the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association. Holly denied all of the charges.
However, on August 16, 2005 Holly was convicted of having sex with four prisoners, sexual contact with four others, improperly touching three employees, improperly touching the teenage daughter of an employee, threatening to kill a prisoner if she revealed their relationship and lying to federal authorities. The jury deliberated just over four hours before handing down guilty verdicts on 14 of the 15 counts filed against the former sheriff.
Holly, a 40-year veteran of the sheriffs department, had lost his bid for re-election in July 2005.l His attorney, Warren Gotcher, criticized the tearful testimony of the victimized prisoners, saying, These women are dope makers, dope sellers, dope users. U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling, however, noted that Under state law, a female prisoner cannot consent to sex with a law enforcement officer. Why? Jailers have absolute control over prisoners lives. Responsible aw enforcement officers govern themselves accordingly, he added.
Holly was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. Fifteen women, including the daughters of two female jailers, subsequently filed suit against the county as a result of Hollys sexual abuse. Two of the cases were settled in November, 2005 for $185,000.
Michael Boyles, 50, a former juvenile probation officer for the Oregon Youth Authority, was sentenced to 80 years in prison after being found guilty on October 13, 2005 of having sex with at least five teenage boys during his eleven years in office.
Boyles was convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse. The four-week trial revealed testimony from parents, victims and caregivers ranging back to 1995. It was also revealed that Boyles had been supplying some of the boys with drugs.
When the judge considered granting Boyles a third postponement, eight people came forward to make statements against him. No one spoke in his defense. Some urged that he be placed in general prison population where he would experience prison justice, but the judge said that decision was not his to make. Boyles now faces civil lawsuits filed by his victims. AT least one victim has committed suicide since Boyles raped him.
Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel has been busy for months, hearing testimony from thirteen former Alleghney County jail guards. The guards were implicated in a sex-for-favors scandal that resulted from an investigation of contraband being smuggled into the jail.
George V. DiDomenicus, 52, was the first to be sentenced on January 12, 2005. Judge McDaniel gave him 23 months in jail and three years probation. The former guard entered a plea of guilty on October 12, 2004 to two felony counts of institutional sexual assault and two felony counts of attempted sexual assault.
Mr. D., as he was known to the prisoners, used a gym bathroom to have sex with at least two female prisoners between September 2002 and August 2003. The frequency of the sexual offenses figured heavily into his sentence.
Had this been a one-time occurrence, the court would have considered probation, said Judge McDaniel.
John Pastor, 54, a former president of the guards union and Mr. Ds partner in crime, pleaded guilty to a single count of misdemeanor sexual assault. Joseph Addison, 55, was sentenced to 16 to 96 months on May 25, 2005 for five counts of indecent assault and one count of attempted indecent sexual assault. His no-contest plea came in exchange for reducing the charges from felonies to misdemeanors.
A jury found LeShawn Walker, 33, guilty on four counts of institutional sexual assault for having sexual relationships with numerous female prisoners over a five-year period. He was sentenced in July 2005 to 2½ to 7 years on each count, to be served consecutively, for a total sentence of 10-28 years.
Probation was within the mitigated range, said defense attorney Wendy Williams. It just shows you cant go to trial. Or, possibly, it shows that prison guards shouldnt sexually assault prisoners.
Charles Richard Miller, 35, received three years probation in exchange for a guilty plea to one charge of institutional sexual assault. A second count was dropped.
A total of thirteen cases were scheduled to be heard by Judge McDaniel. The trials for guards William Woznichak, Darrel K. Hill and DePaul Smith were postponed; Smith is the only guard charged with sexual assault of a male prisoner.
Guard Roy Baldinger joined DiDomenicus, Miller and Pastor in entering a guilty plea. Guards Robert Veatch, Donald Stupka, Robert Virgili and Brian Vat Dusen were acquitted. Veatch had been accused of offering a female prisoner $200 to perform a sex act; the disgruntled woman filed charges after he refused to pay.
County Jail Warden Ramon Rustin acknowledged that a policy of allowing male guards to oversee units housing female prisoners was a contributing factor to the numerous incidents of sexual misconduct.
Daniel T. Rogers, 49, a guard at the Westmoreland County juvenile jail, pleaded guilty on June 22, 2005 to three counts of institutional sexual assault. Prisoners first reported Rogers in May 2004 for partially undressing an 18-year-old to ensure her bra was of an approved type. He later returned to her cell with pizza and caressed her. On June 9, 2004, Rogers intimately fondled and kissed a 16-year-old girl who was being released. He resigned on June 29, 2005 after admitting to a three-month relationship with a 19-year-old prisoner the previous year.
Judge Rita Hathaway dropped several charges against Rogers in exchange for the guilty plea. He must receive sex offender counseling and pay a $15,000 fine in addition to serving a seven-year prison sentence.
Theodore E. Woodson, 33, a materials handler at the Federal Detention Center in Center City, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty on March 22, 2005 to having sexual relations with two female prisoners and sexual contact with a third woman. He was sentenced to four months in prison and three years supervised release.
And on February 9, 2005, Corinne Mazzuca, 49, a former counselor at the Lackawanna County prison in Scranton, found herself awaiting sentencing after pleading no contest to having sex with a prisoner. As the former jail director of community programs, Mazzucas actions were considered obstruction of the law. She had been suspended in September 2004, and at the time claimed that she and the prisoner she was accused of having a relationship with were just friends. Her attorney requested that she receive probation.
In McNairy County, Sheriff Tommy Riley was indicted on October 24, 2004 and charged with official misconduct and other offenses in connection with facilitating the escape of Sheila Kirk, a female prisoner who was released from the county jail almost eight months before completing her sentence. Riley had ordered Kirks release so she could have an abortion after she became pregnant by one of his deputies, Johnny Carter. Carter pled guilty to a sex-related charge and three counts of introducing contraband into the jail, and is serving a six-month sentence. On October 26, 2005, following a hung jury in his first trial, Riley was convicted of a felony charge and sentenced to three years probation.
On May 10, 2004, Clint Wade Weaver, a guard at the Haltom City jail, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting three female prisoners. The women were serving misdemeanor offenses in the Haltom jail in 2000, and said Weaver demanded sex in return for favors and shortened sentences.
Weaver pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and one count of violating civil rights in February 2004. He previously had been sentenced to two years probation in 2002 on a misdemeanor count of official oppression.
Weaver, who worked in the jail from October 1999 to April 2001, had asked for probation. District Judge Scott Wisch declined the request, stating, You were a public servant. Im supposed to believe youre a moral person, but where was the morality when you were trading sex for jail release?
Prison guard Michael Miller, 35, was sentenced on July 2, 2004 to 12½ years in federal prison and required to pay $207,175 in restitution to a woman he raped at a prison work camp. Miller was a guard at the Federal Medical Center in Carswell when the incident occurred.
The victim, Marilyn Shirley, a 47-year-old mother of two with five step-children, said justice was served, and stated she was satisfied with the sentence. She also obtained a $4 million jury award in a lawsuit stemming from the incident.
Agapita Martinez, 31, and Roque Ybarra, 29, resigned as Reeves County jail guards in early January 2005. They were indicted on charges stating they intentionally engage[d] in sexual contact by touching the genitals [of a male prisoner] with intent to arouse or gratify their sexual desires.
The two guards were employed at the RCDC III prison unit, which is run by the private prison company GEO Group. Readers may better remember the company by its former name, Wackenhut Corrections. The charge against Martinez was later dismissed; Ybarra received a five-year deferred adjudication sentence on June 10, 2005 and was placed on probation.
Steven Bradley Grisham, 35, a guard at the Bi-State jail in Bowie County, was arrested in February 2005 for having sex with a female prisoner. Grisham was accused of assaulting the woman in an office at the jail on February 8, 2005. The investigation began the next day and he resigned a week later.
The Bi-State jail is run by Civigenics, a private prison company based in Massachusetts, and Grisham was a CiviGenics employee. He pled guilty on April 25, 2006 and was sentenced to two years probation and a $2,000 fine.
Polk County Sheriffs Deputy Daniel Adams, 28, was arrested in late April 2005 and charged with violation of civil rights of a person in custody for engaging in sexual activity with a female prisoner. Hired only a year earlier, Adams was released on $5,000 bond and faces up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted. His trial is set for September 5, 2006.
On October 18 and 19, 2005, KPRC TV reported a rapidly growing problem in the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice, namely romantic relationships between guards and prisoners. Records revealed nearly 1,200 guard/prisoner liaisons over the past five years.
Its a serious problem, said John Moriarty, the TDCJs inspector general. The news report by KPRC resulted from an on-camera sting operation in which a female guard was caught by undercover police in southwest Houston. The woman had agreed to smuggle heroin and cell phones into a Texas prison.
According to Moriarty, the majority of infractions involved female guards having sexual relationships with prisoners. But federal law prohibits restricting female guards from working in male prisons.
In January 2005, Newport News Police began investigating a sheriffs deputy accused of having sex with a female prisoner. Sheriff Charles E. Moore eschewed an internal investigation to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Investigators described a relationship between Sgt. Bruce Anthony Trader, 44, and a 22-year-old female trusty that occurred in November 2004. Trader, who resigned on January 6, 2005, was charged with carnal knowledge of a prisoner, a class 6 felony, and released on bond. Under Virginia law a conviction could have carried up to five years in prison; however, the charge was reduced to misdemeanor assault on April 25, 2005 and Trader received a 12-month suspended sentence.
This is simply one of numerous incidents in Virginia prisons and jails. On January 20, 2004, Michael D. Steele, a guard at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, sexually assaulted an unnamed female prisoner housed in the jails medical unit. Steele reportedly took the woman, who suffered from epilepsy, to a shower and watched her bathe. A short time later he entered her cell and forced her to perform oral sex.
Steele was charged with forcible sodomy; he pled guilty in December 2004 to unlawful carnal knowledge and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. His victim filed a civil suit against Steele and the jail, seeking $2.3 million in damages. Theres a higher standard when youre in law enforcement, stated the womans attorney, David M. Lee. If you lock people up and take away their freedom, you have to protect them.
Sheron Montrey, 29, incarcerated at the Pocahontas Correctional Unit in Chesterfield, discovered in October 2005 that she was two months pregnant. Montrey had been incarcerated since 1995. She told prison officials that the pregnancy was the result of sexual intercourse with an unnamed prison guard, and claimed that she and the guard had sex at least a dozen times over a six-month period. The guard, Montrey said, promised her money and other favors in exchange for sex. But all I ever got over the past year was $195 and this baby, she complained.
Another prisoner, Joan Elizabeth Carter, 38, reported that the guard had approached her on several occasions with sexual suggestions but never acted on it. A third prisoner said she had complained about being sexually harassed by the same guard, but her complaints were ignored. All three women were transferred to other facilities. The accused guard no longer works at the prison.
Former deputy sheriff Eric Mayo was found guilty on two counts of carnal knowledge of a prisoner following a jury trial in February 2004, and was sentenced to six years in prison. Mayo had sexually assaulted two female prisoners between April and September 2003 when he was employed at the Alexandria facility; the women were part of a work-release program. I could have been kicked out of the program if I didnt do what he told me to do, said one of the victims.
One woman, referred to as Jane Doe in a lawsuit filed against Mayo, was molested after he ordered her to accompany him to a movie theater. According to the complaint, While at the theater, defendant Mayo ordered Ms. Doe to perform oral sex on him, and she obeyed. Mayo took the other prisoner to a motel to have sex.
He wore the badge, he carried the gun, he held the keys and he had the power, said Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Tim Callahan. He had the power and he abused that power by preying on young women who were at their most vulnerable. Donal Allen, Mayos attorney, offered a typical defense that attacked the victims credibility. The only evidence in this case has been brought in by convicted felons, he said. Which is true convicted felons who were sexually abused by his client, that is.
Correctional Services Corp. (which has since been bought out by GEO Group) and five of its employees were named as defendants in a lawsuit involving a prisoner who said she was sexually harassed as she awaited immigration charges.
The suit, filed on November 1, 2004 by Marisela Manzo Torres, 27, claimed that a Lt. McIntyre brushed against her so that his arms or other parts of his body would touch her breasts. She also said that the guard repeatedly frequented her cell at night and shined a flashlight over her body, saying show me. Ms. Torres said she complied for fear of retaliation. McIntyre is currently facing charges from another prisoner whom he beat severely on July 5, 2005.
A second guard, identified only as Twogood, is alleged to have engaged in sexually explicit banter over the intercom in Ms. Torres cell. The lawsuit was settled under confidential terms in January 2006.
Washingtons Franklin County Jail is also under fire for sexual abuse of prisoners. One guard resigned and another was suspended following a female prisoners complaint of sexual abuse.
The woman told reporters that she was twice forced to perform oral sex with one guard in August 2005, when he threatened to forestall her October release. She also claimed she witnessed other female prisoners doing strip shows for the guards entertainment. According to Sheriff Richard Lathim, the investigation into the prisoners allegations of sexual abuse involved a couple [of] officers not following rules.
In October 2005, three DOC employees at the John Burke Center of the Taycheeda Correctional Institution (TCI) were suspended based on allegations ranging from simple sexual contact to sexual intercourse.
According to police, the men admitted participating in sexual behavior.
Dwight Helsell, 47, was charged with five counts of second-degree sexual assault involving two female prisoners. The incidents occurred between February 1 and August 22, 2005. One woman was 25 and the other 26; both worked with a maintenance crew as part of a work placement program. Helsell was a TCI maintenance supervisor when he engaged in sexual contact with the women, which including oral sex.
Andrew Metzen, 35, was charged with two counts of misconduct and two counts of second-degree sexual assault by a corrections officer after admitting to both oral sex and intercourse with the same female prisoner, which took place in the facilitys maintenance garage and in Helsells office.
John Patterson, 50, was charged with three counts of sexual assault; he was accused of fondling, kissing and having sexual contact with both of the women.
Edward Wood, 49, faced one count of sexual assault. He told detectives he gave each prisoner a can of beer and twice squeezed one of the womens buttocks.
The female prisoners said the sexual contact was consensual. Helsell, Metzen and Wood were released on $5,000 signature bonds. Metzen pled guilty on February 7, 2006 to two charges of misconduct in office and was sentenced to six months (which he could serve at a county jail of his convenience) and two years probation; he was also ordered to write a letter of apology to the Taycheedah staff . Patterson pleaded guilty on April 12, 2006 to three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault in exchange for three years probation. Wood pled no contest to one charge on Dec. 20, 2005 and received a $250 fine. Helsell is scheduled to go to trial in October 2006.
On April 6, 2006, guards Heather A. Bartosch, 28, and Christine R. Roberge, 39, were charged with second-degree sexual assault for having sex with the same prisoner at the Oakhill Correctional Institution. Bartosch had a relationship with the prisoner from 2004 through 2005, while Roberge had oral sex and intercourse with the prisoner in June and July 2005. It was also discovered that Warden Deirdre Morgan delayed contacting her superiors or police for four months after she learned of the guards sexual misconduct. Both Bartosch and Roberge, who resigned, were released on signature bonds; their cases are pending in Dane County Court.
Christine D. Brown, 46, a food service worker at the Stanley Correctional Institution, made her first court appearance in Chippewa County Court on December 6, 2005. A complaint filed the previous month charged Brown with sexual assault against a prisoner. Brown had been under investigation since June 14, 2005, when another guard saw the kitchen worker cooking something other than food with a prisoner in a room at the rear of the kitchen. When her co-worker walked in, Brown and the prisoner were hugging and kissing.
She was charged with two felony counts of second-degree sexual assault. In April 2006 Brown pleaded no contest to felony sexual assault and four misdemeanors, and received 45 days in jail and 18 months probation. The assistant DA in the case, Wade Newell, agreed to the lenient sentence because the inmate said it was consensual.
Since the Wisconsin state law criminalizing sex between correctional employees and prisoners was passed in September 2003, it has been used to bring sexual assault charges against nine defendants, including those listed above.
On June 27, 2005 criminal charges were filed against Jeremy Michael King, a former Platte County jail control clerk [see PLN, July 2006, p. 30, Guard Out On Bond, Woman He Allegedly Raped Jailed Beyond Her Sentence]. King was charged with three counts of criminal sexual misconduct involving Kizzy Robinson, a Jamaican prisoner convicted of federal drug offenses.
County Attorney Eric Alden, who filed the charges, was worried that King was just the tip of the iceberg. There might be more charges against more people, he said. His concern stemmed from a $1.5 million lawsuit filed against the county by three women, including Robinson, who claimed that guards used over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs and other contraband to solicit sexual favors from female prisoners.
And, in fact, two other jail employees were later charged in connection with the sex scandal, including Glenn Dunham and Andy Eastman. King was acquitted by a jury on March 1, 2006, while Dunham and Eastman have yet to go to trial. On the same day as Kings acquittal, Amnesty International released a report which found that many states dont adequately protect women in prisons and jails from being sexually abused.
Conclusion: Illinois Again
On February 27, 2004, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that guards are not responsible when prisoners rape other prisoners. (See: Riccardo v. Rausch, 375 F.3d 521 (7th Cir., 2004), amending and superseding the original ruling at 359 F.3d 510 (7th Cir. 2004) [PLN, June 2004]). The U.S. Supreme Court then tacitly approved that appellate opinion by denying a petition for certiorari.
Anthony Riccardo, incarcerated at Illinois Centralia Correctional Center, pleaded with Lt. Larry Bausch not to house him with gang member Juan Garcia. Rausch wouldnt listen, and within two days Garcia was forcing Riccardo to perform oral sex.
Riccardo sued and was eventually afforded a jury trial. After weighing the facts and evidence the jury awarded Riccardo $1.5 million in damages based on the deliberate indifference of Lt. Rausch.
The state appealed and the Seventh Circuit reversed the lower court, reasoning that prisons are dangerous places and Riccardos situation did not place him in substantial risk of harm. Therefore, the appellate court held, Rausch was not deliberately indifferent to Riccardos pleas.
Although this Seventh Circuit case involved a prisoner being raped by other prisoners, the courts logic can equally be applied to sexual abuse of prisoners by prison employees. The ruling in Riccardo v. Rausch is an apt barometer of the importance that judges place on protecting prisoners from rape, regardless of who is molesting them. As such, it can be considered a form of judicial deliberate indifference to the sexual assault of incarcerated citizens.
The erosion of constitutional rights almost always begins with prisoners, who are the most marginalized and politically vulnerable population in our society. But this erosion seldom stops until it eats away at the liberties of everyone the Constitution was written to protect.
Although most Americans are appalled by sexual assault, there seems to be significantly less sympathy for prisoners who are raped as opposed to non-incarcerated rape victims. Due to the tough on crime rhetoric that has been pounded into the American public for decades, the sexual abuse of prisoners at the hands of their keepers has become, if not tacitly condoned, certainly not a matter of public concern.
But it should be. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, a report released in July 2005 found there were an estimated 8,210 allegations of sexual misconduct against prisoners in 2004. Of those, 42% involved sexual misconduct by staff members and 11% percent involved sexual harassment by staff over 4,300 incidents involving prison and jail employees nationwide. An estimated 2,090 incidents were substantiated (not including on-going investigations). And thats in just one year alone. And just what was reported.
Yet it is extremely difficult to hold prison and jail guards accountable for sexual misconduct. Prisoners who allege rape or sexual abuse are routinely disbelieved; their very status of being incarcerated works against their credibility. When there is an investigation its often done by other law enforcement officials who may have sympathy for the corrections employee one of their own who has been accused. And when allegations of sexual abuse are substantiated the staff member is often placed on paid leave, which amounts to a paid vacation.
If charges are filed the bond is often set fairly low due to the suspects status as a corrections official. Due to credibility issues with prisoner victims and witnesses, and lack of cooperation from other guards due to a pervasive code of silence, prosecutors tend to offer lenient plea bargains such as short prison or jail terms. And even then, as indicated in many of the examples listed above, guards convicted of sexual assault are frequently placed on probation, allowed to serve jail time on weekends, or offered pretrial diversion, work release or other perks.
It is only in the most egregious cases that prison and jail staff members receive serious punishment for rape and sexual abuse. Indeed, the justice system appears to be soft on sex-related crimes only when such crimes are committed by corrections employees. And only recently is this entrenched attitude beginning to change. For example, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was signed into federal law on Sept. 4, 2003. On the state level, all states now have laws that criminalize sex between prisoners and guards.
It should be noted that the offenses enumerated in this article are far from exhaustive; indeed, many had to be excluded due to space limitations. We also did not generally rehash cases and incidents we have reported in the past. A review of the topic Sexual assault in PLNs indexes and website gives a glimpse into how pervasive the practice is. Many more have gone unreported and undetected. That PLN does not have enough pages to report them all speaks as loudly as the article you have just read.
Sources: Amarillo Globe News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Antelope Valley Press, Arizona Republic, Augusta Chronicle, Associated Press, Baltimore Sun, Bangor Daily News, Buffalo News, Chippewa Herald, Columbia Tribune, Columbus Dispatch, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston Chronicle, Journal Sentinal, Kansas City Star, KIRO-TV, KPRC-TV, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Los Angeles Times, Lufkin Daily News, Miami Herald, Mobile Register, newjersey.com, News Herald, New York Post, Odessa American, Palm Beach Post, phillynews.com, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Press-Enterprise, Pueblo Chieftain, Sacramento Bee, Salt Lake Tribune, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times, SP Times, Star Tribune, Texarkana Gazette, themilwaukeechannel.com, The New Mexican, The Oklahoman, The Oregonian, The Reporter, Times Dispatch, Times Herald, Topeka Capital-Journal, Tribune Review, Union Tribune, Virgin Daily Press, WBAY-TV, IMP-TV, The Hartford Courant, The Tennessean.
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