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$750,000 Settlement in Suit Over Prisoner Beaten and Raped for Three Days

by Matt Clarke

On May 17, 2019, the federal government settled a lawsuit brought by a man formerly incarcerated by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), who had been placed in a segregation cell with another prisoner who previously threatened him, even though they were supposed to be kept apart.

This resulted in the man being repeatedly threatened, beaten and raped over the course of three days, during which he repeatedly tried to get the attention of BOP staff who were not performing their rounds or monitoring the video feed from the cell, according to an internal BOP investigation that recommended sustaining misconduct allegations against 26 employees.

Alec Arapahoe, a Native American, was 21 when he arrived at the BOP’s medium-security Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) in Florence, Colorado. He tried to hide his homosexuality but another Native American prisoner, William Mexican, a member of the gang 073 (also called TBZ or “The Boys”) had already heard that Arapahoe was a homosexual who appeared feminine.

Mexican attacked Arapahoe, extorted money from him, accused him of being gay and threatened to rape him. Eventually, the Native Americans at FCI met on the recreation yard and, after a disagreement that neared violence, a faction led by Mexican “voted Arapahoe off the yard” due to his sexual orientation. That meant Arapahoe had to leave the FCI immediately or be beaten.

Arapahoe asked his stepmother to call the prison and intervene to help him seek protective custody status. She did, and he was placed in the Segregated Housing Unit at USP Florence, a maximum-security facility adjacent to the FCI. Staff who investigated the protective custody request found a video recording of the meeting on the yard and interviewed Mexican, who said there would be trouble for Arapahoe if he returned. They nonetheless filed a report stating they could find no evidence to support Arapahoe’s claim that he was in danger.

Mexican was later transferred to the USP and, because a staff member only looked at his paperwork, not Arapahoe’s, he was placed in a cell with Arapahoe. Arapahoe told the guards who escorted Mexican to his cell that he was nervous about having Mexican celling with him, but Mexican assured them there would be no problems and they left.

Over the course of the ensuing three days, Mexican repeatedly assaulted Arapahoe, forced him to perform oral sex and anally raped him. Arapahoe repeatedly stationed himself in front of the cell’s video camera, often covered in blood, and hit the cell’s distress button, but no one came to investigate.

Mexican forced Arapahoe to face the back wall when food was delivered, so staff could not see his injuries. Finally, Mexican left the cell to go to recreation and, as soon as the cell door closed, Arapahoe told the escorting guards he was in danger. He was moved to another cell and a medical examination yielded evidence of the sexual assaults.

An internal BOP investigation found that staff had failed to conduct cell checks every 30 minutes, as required by regulations, and had falsified documentation to show they had performed the rounds on time. The investigation sustained allegations of “inattention to duty,” “failure to follow policy” and “falsification of documents” against 26 employees.

Aided by Denver attorneys David Lane, Liana Orshan and Tania Valdez, Arapahoe filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the BOP and numerous employees, which eventually settled for $750,000. See: Arapahoe v. Avalos, U.S.D.C. (D. Col.), Case No. 1:16-cv-00329-WJM-STV. 


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Related legal case

Arapahoe v. Avalos