As described in this issue’s cover story, in May 2012 the U.S. Department of Justice issued a final rule adopting national standards pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The rule was published in the Federal Register and became effective on August 20, 2012; however, state and local corrections agencies were given one year to provide PREA-related training to current employees. Likewise, the first PREA audit cycle, to ensure compliance with the standards, didn’t begin until a year after the rule’s effective date.
Therefore, during the one-year period ending August 20, 2013, state and local corrections officials finalized policies to comply with the PREA standards and trained staff members on PREA-related issues, including “zero-tolerance [policies] for sexual abuse and sexual harassment” and “[h]ow to fulfill their responsibilities under agency sexual abuse and sexual harassment prevention, detection, reporting, and response policies and procedures.”
Concurrently, prison and jail employees nationwide continued a long-standing pattern of raping and sexually assaulting prisoners – a pattern that Prison Legal News has documented extensively. [See, e.g.: PLN, April 2012, p.1; May 2009, p.1; Aug. 2006, p.1].
The following are examples of rape and sexual abuse involving corrections staff reported from August 20, 2012 – when the PREA standards became effective – to August 20, 2013, the start of the first PREA audit cycle. Apparently, these prison and jail employees didn’t pay attention during their PREA training.
On June 19, 2013, two Russell County jail guards were arrested for engaging in sexual misconduct with female prisoners. Jacob Brent Phelps and James Blain were charged with felony sexual misconduct with an inmate; another guard, Charles Tarver, was fired for having “inappropriate conversations” of a sexual nature with prisoners. Phelps and Blain were released on $10,000 bond.
Two separate incidents of sexual abuse involving female detainees at the Mohave Valley Sheriff’s Office substation resulted in the arrest of a former jail guard. In late January 2013, Shannon Correll, 25, was indicted and charged with unlawful sexual intercourse with a 24-year-old prisoner in a shed outside the substation. Six months earlier, he had been arrested on one count each of unlawful sexual conduct and false imprisonment for a sexual encounter with a different prisoner in the same shed.
A female prisoner reported having sexual contact with Larry R. Clinkscale, 40, a guard at the Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution, on August 27, 2012. Delaware State Police were contacted by DOC Internal Affairs investigators, and Clinkscale was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct in a detention facility. The prisoner said she was told to go to a staff restroom while on floor cleaning duty, then was taken to a nearby closet where Clinkscale had sexual relations with her. Clinkscale turned himself in and was released on $10,000 unsecured bond.
On February 5, 2013, Baker County jail guard Tarrece Givens, 27, was arrested and charged with sexual battery on a person older than 12 by a correctional officer. He is accused of receiving oral sex from a female prisoner at the Baker County Detention Center. Givens, a former state prison guard, was jailed with bond set at $100,000.
In unrelated incidents, two former Chatham County Sheriff’s Department employees found themselves on the wrong side of the law on April 24, 2013. Both are accused of sexually assaulting a person in custody. Shelton Crowder, 55, was indicted on five counts including public indecency and making false statements in addition to the sex abuse charges. Crowder, a corporal assigned to the Corrections Bureau, worked for the sheriff’s department from 1996 until his termination on September 19, 2012. Former jail guard Lewis Lane, 34, also accused of sexual assault, surrendered to authorities and was placed in protective custody at the Chatham County jail.
On July 1, 2013, former federal prison guard Richard Seaman was sentenced to 20 months in prison and a $3,000 fine for sexually abusing a female prisoner at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu. He also must serve three years on supervised release. Seaman had pleaded guilty last year to one count of sexual abuse of a ward; a prisoner working under his supervision in the commissary saved his DNA on her shirt and turned it over to investigators as evidence of the sex acts.
On July 29, 2013, a state court judge sentenced former Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center guard Kim Russel Rogers to eight years of probation after prosecutors agreed to a reduced charge of attempted sexual contact with a prisoner. Rogers initially had been charged with felony sexual contact. The judge also imposed a suspended sentence of three to seven years in prison should Rogers fail to complete his term of probation.
A prison nurse stands accused of performing a sexual act on a prisoner at the Pendleton Correctional Facility after a guard walked in on the encounter in the prison’s infirmary on April 21, 2013. Colette Ficklin, 39, allegedly told the prisoner to fake chest pains in order to be alone with her in the infirmary. Ficklin was arrested on June 19, 2013 and charged with sexual misconduct by a service provider, a felony. She was employed by private medical contractor Corizon. [UPDATE: Ms. Ficklin was acquitted of the criminal charges filed against her following a jury trial in December 2014].
Reno County sheriff’s deputy Jonathan Diaz, 30, is accused of engaging in illegal sexual activity at the county jail. Sheriff Randy Henderson announced charges against Diaz on May 21, 2013 after two prisoners accused him of misconduct. He was arrested on two counts of unlawful sexual relations with an inmate, two counts of aggravated intimidation of a victim and two counts of bribery. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation was involved in the investigation.
Routine telephone surveillance led to the March 6, 2013 arrest of 48-year-old Karen Watts, who was employed at the Concordia Parish Work Release facility in Vidalia. Watts was fired and charged with malfeasance for alleged inappropriate sexual contact with a work release prisoner under her supervision. Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick said the prisoner may also face criminal charges.
On November 29, 2012, law enforcement officials took state prison guard James Allen Bongaarts, 57, into custody for repeatedly having sex with a female prisoner at MCF-Togo. Investigators spoke with the prisoner and Bongaarts during the investigation, and both acknowledged they had engaged in sexual contact. Bongaarts was charged with seven counts of felony sexual misconduct; he pleaded guilty and was sentenced on May 13, 2013 to 65 months in prison plus lifetime conditional release supervision.
A 29-year-old female prisoner at the St. Louis Justice Center reported to authorities that former jail guard Tony West, 36, had pressured her to have sex in a second-floor janitor’s closet and told her he could make her charges “go away.” West was sentenced on December 13, 2012 to 3½ years in prison for the sexual assault. He had denied the accusations and asked the court to consider his desire to care for his wife and young children, but Circuit Court Judge John Garvey said if West wanted to do the right thing by his family he needed to acknowledge his criminal acts. Garvey called the crime “disgusting” because West had used his authority to prey on a vulnerable victim.
Tisha Ann Brunell, 45, a former prison nurse, pleaded not guilty to 53 charges on March 8, 2013. She was charged with 43 counts of misdemeanor unauthorized communications, 6 counts of felony transfer of illegal articles and four counts of felony sexual intercourse without consent. Brunell worked as a licensed practical nurse at two facilities – one for parole violators and one for DUI offenders – operated by Community, Counseling, and Correctional Services (CCCS), a private non-profit organization. She reportedly had inappropriate encounters with three prisoners.
Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center guard Eugenio Dimas, 51, was charged in February 2013 with official misconduct and voluntary sex with a prisoner after other prisoners accused him of having sexual relations with a woman serving a life sentence for murder. Prisoner Monique Maestas, 26, initially denied having an affair with Dimas but later changed her story, telling investigators she had sex with Dimas, received gifts from him and talked with him on the phone. Dimas pleaded guilty to one count of felony misconduct of a public officer on June 5, 2013; he has not yet been sentenced.
Twice last year, employees at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center were charged with having sex with prisoners. In August 2012, video surveillance caught jailer Lara Sterosky allegedly performing a sex act on a male teenager. Deputies say Sterosky had oral sex with a 17-year-old resident in a closet at the facility. Although the teen told investigators he initiated the sexual contact, he turned her in because she later “took away his privileges and started treating him differently,” according to a KOAT Channel 7 news report. Sterosky was charged with criminal sexual penetration of a juvenile inmate.
In a separate incident, detention center guard Edward Edmon, 42, was charged in December 2012 with raping and impregnating a juvenile resident at the facility. The juvenile, identified as “Shauna H.,” filed a lawsuit against Bernalillo County claiming that she had sex with Edmon “five or six times,” and did so because she saw Edmon retaliate against another female prisoner who refused his advances.
Donald Schermerhorn, 43, was terminated from his job as a Greene County jail guard while a co-worker, Earnest Dunn, 26, was suspended and later fired after an extensive investigation by the New York State Police found the two guards had engaged in sexual misconduct with prisoners. Evidence uncovered during the investigation led to the arrest of Schermerhorn and Dunn on December 18, 2012. Schermerhorn faces several misdemeanor charges and Dunn faces both felony and misdemeanor charges. A lawsuit filed by one of the prisoners over the sexual abuse settled on August 2, 2013 for $65,000; another suit remains pending.
No policy changes were made at the jail as a result of the sexual misconduct by Schermerhorn and Dunn. “They violated our regular policies, so we’re not going to change something that there’s really no need to,” said Greene County Sheriff Gregory Seeley. “You do something stupid, you get fired for it. Simple as that. It’s not because a policy was wrong.”
Kristin Earp was arrested on July 29, 2013 and charged with sexual activity by a custodian. The 23-year-old guard had worked for less than a year at the Western Youth Institution in Morganton, which houses male youthful offenders. Officials began an investigation after receiving a tip about Earp having sexual contact with a prisoner in January 2013, and she resigned four days after the alleged incident.
Richard Rodgers, 47, an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction dietary employee, was charged with a single count of sexual battery for receiving oral sex from a male prisoner at the Lorain Correctional Institution. An initial incident summary stated the “[i]nmate performed sexual favors for an employee in return for goods.” The type of goods were not specified. Rodgers, who had been placed on voluntary leave, was arrested March 22, 2013 and released on bond. An internal investigation has been placed on hold pending the resolution of the criminal charges.
In March 2013, several female prisoners filed a lawsuit alleging that detention guards at the Comanche County Jail “routinely” engaged in rape, sexual abuse and assault. Sixteen women are listed as plaintiffs in the suit against the Comanche County Facilities Authority (CCFA), a private company that runs the jail, and several jailers. Among the complaints are allegations that a guard requested oral sex from a prisoner in exchange for a food tray; a prisoner was forced to shave her pubic hair after being told “the guard likes it that way”; women were made to walk to the jail’s shower areas naked; a prisoner “suffered repeated rapes and sodomy”; and one prisoner’s genitals were photographed during the intake process and the pictures shared with jail employees and trustees.
The Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma refused to cover the legal expenses of defending against the federal lawsuit, requiring CCFA to hire its own attorneys. See: Blueberry v. Comanche County Facilities Authority, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Okla.), Case No. 5:13-cv-00278-M.
Benjamin Carl Patterson, 56, a food service coordinator at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, resigned on January 27, 2013 after investigators found evidence that resulted in his arrest on charges of custodial sex misconduct, official misconduct and supplying contraband. Patterson pleaded guilty in March 2013 to one count of custodial sex misconduct involving a female prisoner; the other charges were dismissed. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years of probation, and ordered to undergo mental health and sex offender evaluations and treatment, and to have no contact with his victim.
In a case investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General and officials at FDC Philadelphia, Lamont Lucas, 47, was arrested on April 11, 2013 and accused of having sex with a prisoner and attempting to aid in her escape. Lucas had been a prison guard for 18 years and was a supervisor in the facility’s tool shop. According to the indictment, he gave the prisoner sterling silver earrings, had sexual contact with her and assisted in planning her escape, which did not occur. Lucas pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.
The South Carolina Department of Corrections announced that three female employees at the Kershaw Correctional Institution were terminated on June 4, 2013, several days after turning themselves in to law enforcement authorities in Lancaster County. The three women, Crystal C. Haynes, 56, Charthenia B. Smith, 55, and Darcy A. Meade, 53, were charged with sex offenses involving prisoners at the medium-security men’s prison.
On June 11, 2013, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested 42-year-old Wendy Deshay Carter, a former Macon County jail guard, for allegedly having sex with a prisoner. Carter reportedly exchanged nude photos with the prisoner and arranged sexual encounters via a contraband cell phone she had given him. Investigators said she began the relationship around January 2012 and that it continued for approximately one year. Carter reportedly engaged in sexual acts with the prisoner by finding locations in the jail without security cameras or by disabling the cameras. She was indicted on five counts of sexual contact with inmates and five counts of official misconduct.
Laketh Bernard McKinney, Sr., 36, a Brazos County detention officer, was arrested on June 5, 2013 on charges of having a sexual relationship with a male prisoner. An investigation was launched following reports that McKinney was bringing contraband (pornographic materials) into the jail, and he was suspended on May 31, 2013 after investigators obtained evidence that he had a sexual relationship with a prisoner. The prisoner told investigators that McKinney had sexual encounters with him at least four times. McKinney was charged with violating the civil rights of a person in custody by sexual contact, and released on $10,000 bond. He is reportedly married with children and serves as a pastor at the Cedar of Lebanon Church of God in Christ.
On May 31, 2013, hours after Henrico County authorities launched an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct involving Jermaine A. Burton and a female prisoner at the Henrico County Jail East, the 30-year-old deputy shot and killed himself at his home. The alleged sexual encounter occurred in the jail’s instruction work area; the investigation began when another deputy reported that he had heard about the sexual activity.
Sex scandals at the Airway Heights Corrections Center led to an investigation involving two female staff members. Sarah Brooks, a sex therapist, was found “in a state of undress” in a room with a sex offender she had agreed to treat. Further evidence of inappropriate letters and phone calls between Brooks and the prisoner was uncovered during the investigation. Brooks resigned in April 2013 and pleaded not guilty to three counts of custodial sexual misconduct on May 29, 2013.
In an unrelated incident at Airway Heights, textile shop supervisor Siri A. Crain was accused of having phone sex with a prisoner, with at least 92 calls being placed by the prisoner to a number believed to belong to Crain. She was also accused of having sex with the prisoner in a staff bathroom and giving him nude photos. Crain was placed on paid leave pending the investigation, which began in May 2013, and may face felony charges.
Buddy Lee Leary, 41, a former Tygart Valley Regional Jail guard, was arrested and accused of forcing a female prisoner to engage in sexual acts. According to the criminal complaint and a recorded interview, the victim told investigators that Leary asked her to disrobe, entered her cell and began to touch her genitals, then instructed her to perform a sex act on him. After “several minutes,” Leary abruptly left the prisoner’s cell. When asked why she waited two months to report the incident, the woman replied she was afraid of repercussions. Leary admitted during a February 21, 2013 interview that he had sexual relations with the victim. He was indicted on June 24, 2013 on two felony counts of imposition of sexual acts on an incarcerated person.
A former guard employed in the food service unit at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution was sentenced on April 4, 2013 to 60 days in jail with work release privileges on a reduced charge of 4th degree sexual assault. Jane Hill, 47, told police she was going through a difficult personal time when she began exchanging letters and phone calls with prisoner Frank J. Burt, Jr. Their relationship became sexual, with multiple encounters occurring in a cooler and storage areas at the facility. They were discovered when Hill’s voice was recognized during routine monitoring of prison phone calls.
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