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Texas Jail Pays $200,000 to Settle Rape/Suicide Suit

Val Verde County, Texas and its contract Del Rio jail operator, GEO Group, Inc., agreed in March 2007 to pay $200,000 to the surviving family of a 23-year-old woman prisoner who, upon becoming depressed after being raped in the jail, hung herself with her bed sheet in July 2004.

LeTisha Tapia, serving a short term for a federal drug conviction, was concerned that Val Verde's jail configuration permitted male and female prisoners to conjugate. Fearing for her own safety, she reported this to the warden, who ignored her concerns. The next day, she was raped in retaliation for complaining. She had also alleged that the private contractor's (GEO) guards had "physically and psychologically beat her down," causing her to relapse into a state of depression. These conditions ultimately lead to her suicide.

After Tapia's family filed suit for wrongful death, competing stories emerged. A prison psychologist stated that the day before her death, Tapia showed "no signs of depression or suicidal ideation, only a mild anxiety." Tapia's attorney offered statements that Tapia's sex had been consensual and was not related to her suicide. The suit further detailed claims that for weeks, GEO guards openly permitted female prisoners entry to male cells in the 850 bed jail and alleged that the day before her death, evidence showed that Tapia was kicked, slammed into walls, and made to kneel on the ground after guards discovered that she had smuggled a phone into her cell.

In the settlement, Val Verde County and GEO will pay $200,000, $85,000 of which will go to the young son. Tapia?s family was represented by Scott Medlock, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin. Mr. Medlock also represents PLN in censorship litigation against the Dallas jail. See: Tapia v. Dugger. USDC WD TX, Case No. SA-06-CA-0147-XR.

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Related legal case

Tapia v. Dugger