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Iowa Prisoners Settle Sexual Abuse Lawsuits For $160,000

Iowa taxpayers and former state prison guard Kenneth Parrot will pay a combined total of $160,000 to three women whom Parrot sexually abused, according to the terms of a December, 2005 settlement agreement.

One of the victims, Melissa Henderson, says the sexual abuse started after Parrot made friends with her at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility in early 2003. The abuse included forcing her to perform oral sex on him, she claimed in her 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit (Henderson v. Parrot, USDC SD IA, Case No. 4:04-cv-40495). Whenever she refused his advances, Henderson says, Parrot would discipline her. As a result she lost privileges and was placed in segregation. The other victims suffered similarly. Yolanda Davis lost exercise privileges when she refused to show Parrot her breasts. Henderson and Shantelle Mundell-Fry were repeatedly groped.

The abuse continued until Parrot masturbated in front of Hendersons cell. She collected some of the ejaculate on a tissue and turned it over to prison investigators. In 2003 Parrot avoided a prison sentence by pleading guilty to two counts of sexual misconduct with a prisoner. He completed his probation in November, 2005.

Prison officials were the first to settle with Henderson, Davis, and Mundell-Fry. The settlement included $50,000 for Mundell-Fry, $25,000 for Henderson, and $5,000 for Davis. Following the agreement, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ordered Parrot to pay matching amounts.

Prison officials say plans are currently underway to stem the abuse. With $1 million in grant money provided under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, the State plans to provide training for guards and prisoners, including instruction on the proper collection of evidence in a rape investigation. Officials also plan to install a sexual abuse hotline--unmonitored by guards--that prisoners can use to report sexual abuse or talk to sex abuse counselors.

Two more cases involving sexual abuse by a Mount Pleasant guard are pending, and others are working their way through the prison grievance process, said Jeffery Lipman, attorney for all five women. Lipman said the cases reflect prison officials' failure to send a clear message to guards about how the growing population of female prisoners should be treated. I think these three cases that we've had have been a wake-up call, Lipman said. Its going to take some time to figure out how seriously they take it. As of October 2005, women accounted for 768 of Iowas 8,525 prisoners.

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Related legal case

Henderson v. Parrot