During her first day on the job a fellow prisoner took Jane’s hands and placed them on Golden’s body in a sexual manner, according to a subsequent federal civil rights action filed in December 2009. Jane was also compelled to expose her breasts to Golden as other prisoners snapped photos of her and each other, the lawsuit alleges.
Jane had been working for just a few days when Golden took her to an isolated shed under the pretext of looking for a sink. Once out of view of surveillance cameras, he forced his hands under Jane’s shirt, felt her breasts and reached into her pants. She feared that resisting him would result in disciplinary action or loss of privileges.
Golden forced Jane to pull down her pants as he shot photos with his cell phone. She began crying and begged him to let her go. Instead, Golden tried to force himself on her, but Jane got away and reported the incident to prison officials. An ensuing investigation by the Oregon State Police identified at least ten prisoners who had been victimized by Golden between 2006 and 2008.
Golden took female prisoners on “jobs” outside the prison fence, gave them leisurely work and plied them with cigarettes, soda, food, coffee and the occasional use of his cell phone. In return he had sex with several of the prisoners, collected pictures of their breasts on his cell phone and borrowed money from a prisoner’s family, according to the federal lawsuit.
Golden resigned in April 2008 and was indicted on January 6, 2009 on 31 counts of custodial sexual misconduct, rape and supplying contraband related to his abuse of six of the ten identified victims. [See: PLN, July 2009, p.47; May 2009, p.1].
Just before going to trial in June 2009, Golden pleaded guilty to 15 counts of sexual custodial misconduct and one count of supplying contraband. He waived his right to a jury trial on the remaining charges, thinking he would have better luck going before Judge Rick Knapp. He was wrong.
Six current and former prisoners testified they were forced to have sex with Golden, and Judge Knapp found him guilty of an additional 8 of 15 counts of sexual abuse.
Golden was sentenced on July 17, 2009. Judge Knapp said that although some of the convictions were misdemeanors, he wanted every prisoner who was victimized taken into account. “I think it is appropriate to have the sentence reflect the number of victims,” the judge stated, just before sentencing Golden to 11 1/2 years in prison, 3 years of post-release supervision, registration as a sex offender, mandatory HIV testing and no contact with his victims. “He’s a serial sex offender. There’s no question about it,” Knapp declared.
CCCF, which opened in 2001, is Oregon’s only women’s prison. Ironically the facility also serves as the intake center for male prisoners; thus, after Golden was taken into custody he returned to the scene of his crimes, but this time not as an employee. The intake process typically takes 40 days. Golden’s “was an abbreviated intake process,” said Oregon Dept. of Corrections (ODOC) spokeswoman Jennifer Black. “We wanted to get him into the right bed as soon as possible.” That bed is at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution, where Golden will likely remain until at least May 2017.
Not an Isolated Incident
When the dust finally settled on the Oregon State Police investigation, several other CCCF employees had resigned or been charged.
Richard Kaleo Rick, 37, a plumber at the prison, and Troy Bryant Austin, 35, a maintenance worker, both assigned to the physical plant with Golden, had been trading drugs for sex. They were charged with custodial misconduct and delivering contraband, including heroin and methamphetamine. Both were convicted; Rick received three years’ probation while Austin was sentenced to three years in prison plus three years of post-release supervision.
CCCF guard Darcy Aaron Macknight, 29, was charged with custodial sexual misconduct for having sex with a prisoner in a control room. He pleaded guilty on August 4, 2009 and was sentenced to a three-year term of probation plus restitution.
In July 2009, five women filed state tort actions against Golden, Austin, Rick, Macknight, the state and ODOC, alleging claims of sexual assault, battery, harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, statutory negligence and civil rights violations. The women are represented by Salem, Oregon attorney Brian Lathen.
In early December 2009, Lathen filed similar state court actions on behalf of six other current and former prisoners. Four of those lawsuits allege that CCCF guard Richard Mitchell “made it a habit to use his power and authority” to force prisoners to expose themselves and perform sexual acts. Mitchell demanded sexual favors from prisoners in exchange for letting them out of their cells, assigning them prison jobs and promising to make their lives easier, the suits allege. He also coerced prisoners into sexual acts by letting them off the hook for rule violations.
Mitchell was apparently pretty brazen, as he didn’t start working at CCCF until February 2009 – one month after Golden was charged – and he resigned on September 21, 2009, suggesting that he began abusing prisoners immediately following the investigation into Golden’s sexual misconduct.
One of the suits against Mitchell also accuses CCCF employee Robert Dunlap of abuse. “Dunlap and Mitchell made plaintiff fear that if she did not allow the sexual act to happen, they would reprimand her and make her time in prison extremely difficult and/or lengthen her sentence,” the complaint in that case states. Dunlap began grooming the prisoner in the mental health unit, sharing his intimate thoughts with her and promising to let her stay at his house when she was released from prison. “Dunlap made it a habit to pass notes to the plaintiff telling her the sexual acts he wanted plaintiff to perform,” according to the suit. “After plaintiff followed Dunlap’s orders, he would retrieve the notes.”
The State Police declined to investigate the allegations against Dunlap, however, “because of the inmate’s lack of cooperation,” prison officials said. He is the only staff member accused of sexual abuse who did not resign.
The other two lawsuits filed by Lathen in December 2009 name Austin and Macknight as defendants. In all, Lathen represents twelve current and former prisoners who are seeking over $10 million in damages. The suits, which were filed individually in Marion County Circuit Court and are still ongoing, include: McLean v. State, Case No. 10C-10363; McShane v. State, Case No. 09C-24369; Clemmer v. State, Case No. 09C-24362; Farmer v. State, Case No. 09C-23599; Cameron v. State, Case No. 09C-20943; Rafael v. State, Case No. 09C-23595; Wilke v. State, Case No. 09C-23598; Saylor v. State, Case No. 09C-23597; Blaylock v. State, Case No. 09C-23594; Bare v. State, Case No. 09C-23596; Weir v. State, Case No. 09C-23374; and Shinall v. State, Case No. 09C-24420.
Four other women prisoners, including “Jane,” filed suit in U.S. District Court against Golden, his supervisor, a CCCF guard, an assistant superintendent and 12 unidentified ODOC employees on December 22, 2009. The court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss in August 2010, and the case remains pending. See: C.K. v. Golden, U.S.D.C. (D. Ore.), Case No. 3:09-cv-01496-JO.
A Badly Kept Secret
The suit against Golden and other ODOC officials alleges that “over the course of several years, women inside the prison would warn other women about Golden and what he did. It was a badly kept secret. It was so widespread that security staff would stop women from working in the physical plant so they would not be sexually mistreated.”
Portland attorney Michelle Burrows, who has won similar lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, described the abuse as an “institutional theme” that supervisors knew or should have known about, but ignored. “Management’s kind of blasé attitude toward it has led to a lot of sexual misconduct,” she said.
Prisoners at CCCF complained about Golden’s inappropriate sexual touching and harassment as far back as 2007. He had bragged to those who complained that he “beat” their complaints, according to the lawsuit. Some of the prisoners who complained were disciplined, Burrows noted.
Lathen also holds prison managers responsible. “The lack of supervision, lack of training has given these people an arena where they can commit these assaults,” he said. “It really now is an epidemic. The whole culture there at the facility is one that needs to be changed.”
Indeed, despite being open just nine years, this isn’t CCCF’s first sex scandal. In fact the most recent sexual abuse investigations are uncannily similar to a 2004 case. At that time, prisoner Amanda Durbin claimed two staff members – one a command-level supervisor – had sexually abused her. The prison employees, Lt. Jeffrey Barcenas and food services coordinator Christopher Randall, admitted to having sex with Durbin and resigned. They later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges; Barcenas was sentenced to six months in jail while Randall received a jail term of 45 days. The state settled a lawsuit filed by Durbin in December 2004, paying her $350,000.
Partly in response to the earlier sex abuse scandal at CCCF, in 2005 the Oregon legislature made it a felony for a prison employee to have intercourse with a prisoner. Any other sexual contact is a misdemeanor. Prisoners cannot be held criminally liable, and consent is not a defense due to the power differential between prisoners and their keepers. Still, as the most recent scandal indicates, the new law has done little to deter sexual predators among staff at CCCF.
ODOC Director and former state senator Max Williams, addressing the prison sexual abuse scandal, was defensive. “The unfortunate part about a story like this is it’s somewhat titillating, given the subject matter and it’s given a lot of attention,” he said.
“Then for a lot of people it begins to define what they think prison is really about, when in fact it’s a very limited number of inmates and a very limited number of staff.”
Williams disagreed that the culture at CCCF condones sexual exploitation of prisoners.
“No, I don’t think it’s an epidemic of abuse. I think we had several individuals at that institution who disregarded the department’s policies and training,” he stated. “It does create a black eye and paints us in a negative light. And unfairly so, given that we’re talking about a handful of [sexually abusive] employees in an organization that’s got over 4,500 employees,” Williams said.
NIC Review and Recommendations
Williams asked the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) for “technical assistance” in dealing with staff sexual misconduct at CCCF following the 2004 sex abuse scandal. He turned to the NIC again in the summer of 2009. “We’ve talked to the National Institute of Corrections, which is sort of the national technical assistance group around the issue,” Williams explained. “They’ve been to Coffee Creek twice. At the end of the day the kind of recommendations they’re making are essentially all the things we are already doing.”
That is not entirely accurate, however. Williams and assistant administrator Bob Kureski stressed that ODOC employees undergo 40 hours of “intensive training,” which includes a boundaries class that covers appropriate prisoner-staff relations. At the end of the training the staff members take a test and the trainer writes an administrative report on each employee, according to Kureski. However, insufficient training was one of the most glaring deficiencies citied by the NIC.
At Williams’ request, a three-member NIC review team visited CCCF in July 2009, spent three days meeting with administrators, supervisors, line staff and prisoners, then released its report in August 2009. Obtained through a public records request, the 17-page report was heavily redacted by the ODOC, ostensibly due to prison safety and security concerns.
Even in its redacted form, the NIC report undeniably found the ODOC was much more responsible for sexual abuse at CCCF than Williams wanted to admit. The report outlined 28 recommendations, several of which focused on improved staff training. The NIC report concluded that “staff are struggling due to their lack of understanding the dynamics of managing the female offender,” and “Coffee Creek Correctional Facility staff can benefit from additional training which specifically addresses the management of female offenders.”
The NIC review team reported that CCCF’s executive staff informed them that inadequate training caused confusion among staff. “In discussing the perception of why problems continue to occur regarding staff sexual misconduct, the group felt strongly that staff continues to be confused as to their role in working with the female inmate population,” the report stated. “This group felt that training is not providing a clear message to staff. There was also concern expressed that staff do not recognize that small boundary violations are security breaches. This is complicated when staff come to work with their own personal problems.”
Similarly, supervisory employees raised concerns about inadequate training. Contrary to Kureski’s claim, “this group indicated that staff is assigned to begin work 1-2 months before they receive any training,” the report noted. “They indicated that staff is provided no training on working with female inmates; as a result, staff have no idea how to talk to women, and staff seem to be dismissive of the population.”
Supervisors also complained about a demeaning “central office staff attitude.” The NIC review team wrote that “Staff indicates their awareness that CCCF is referred to as ‘Prisneyland’ and ‘Camp Cupcake,’” and noted “This attitude of CCCF has an impact on the staff that works at CCCF,” with employees feeling “devalued.”
Line staff objected to the process for investigating sexual misconduct allegations, and the NIC consultants found that “they had never received any training regarding the investigation process, and ... this may be the cause of some of their discomfort with the process.” Line staff indicated “that the only training they receive is via computer; that they have no opportunity to discuss the issues or ask questions for clarification,” the report stated.
Williams stopped short of saying that he thinks some of the prisoners’ sexual abuse claims are false. “I can’t say that I know enough yet, to know whether any of the allegations are bogus,” he remarked. “What I can say is that there are people suing the Department of Corrections that at the time of our investigation denied involvement in the activity. So when they could have come forward and said ‘yes, this is happening,’ they chose not to be forthcoming.”
CCCF staff were more blunt, suggesting that prisoners can make false complaints against staff with no repercussions. “Several recent monetary awards to inmates as a result of allegations against staff” are commonly referred to as the “Inmate Retirement Plan” by prison employees who fear false allegations, according to the NIC report. Of course this ignores the fact that all but one of the six CCCF employees recently accused of sexual misconduct resigned, and four were criminally charged and pleaded guilty or were convicted, as were the two staff members involved in the 2004 scandal.
ODOC Ignores the Experts
Despite calling in experts from the NIC, claiming to have a “zero tolerance policy” and arguing that staff sexual abuse is “an extremely serious issue for us,” Williams essentially shrugged his shoulders when he said, “there isn’t any good answer for people who just decide they’re going to abandon their commitment to our ethical standards and violate the law.”
Yet he made that comment in the face of the NIC’s 28 recommendations to reduce sexual misconduct by prison staff, and according to ODOC spokeswoman Jeanine Hohn only some of those recommendations have been implemented by the prison system.
It’s a pointless waste of time and money to call in outside experts if the ODOC is going to ignore the recommendations it doesn’t like, despite obvious problems with staff sexual misconduct. Fortunately, court-ordered changes and monetary judgments can’t be ignored, and PLN will report future developments in the lawsuits filed against CCCF staff and state officials due to sexual abuse by prison employees.
Sources: The Oregonian, Statesman Journal
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