Warning: This blog post deals with a very sensitive and violent topic.
One of the worst secrets of the American Prison Industrial Complex in the sexual exploitation of female inmates. In recent months there have been very large settlements awarded to female inmates who have brought civil lawsuits against states and state department of corrections.
In Michigan a team of lawyers brought a class action lawsuit against the state and Michigan's Department of Corrections. After 12 years, fierce resistance from the state and several attempts by the state to side-step the accusations, the team won a landmark 30 million dollar settlement and the jury assigned to that case apologized on behalf of the citizens of Michigan for the hostile sexual environment that existed for female prisoners.
In Colorado, Denver Women's Correction Facility reported the highest rate of women prisoners (10.7% of the prison population) who claim to have been sexually assaulted or endured sexual misconduct. In 2011 a class action lawsuit was brought against DWCF for sexual assault but the case later fell apart as the CDOC began to tear apart the allegations (more on this in a moment). In 2008 an inmate brought a lawsuit in federal court alleging sexual assault by a guard where she was awarded 1.3 million dollars. The guard was fired, and he received a 60 day sentence. Because the 2011 class action was brought against the department at the time of the 1.3 million dollar award, the department did it's best to discredit the women involved in the latest class action. Unfortunately the department was wrong. Many of those women at DWCF had been housed at Colorado Women's Correctional Facility where they had been raped. When the facility closed, the women were all transferred to DWCF and the guard(s) were sent elsewhere. According to the women, one day he showed up at DWCF and it started all over again.
This is a quote from the article which is linked to the photo posted above: "UPDATED January 23rd, 2014…Alabama Prison Was House of Horrors for Female Inmates, Feds Say. A Justice Department investigation accuses Alabama officials of violating women’s rights by fostering an environment of rampant sexual abuse at the state’s Tutwiler Prison, where inmates “universally fear for their safety” and officers allegedly forced women to engage in sex acts just to obtain basic sanitary supplies.The nearly 900 women incarcerated at the maximum-security prison live “in a toxic environment with repeated and open sexual behavior,” the Justice Department said in announcing its findings today into the Wetumpka, Ala., facility."
In every facility where the issue of sexual assault is finally brought to the light of day the question is always asked, "Why didn't you report this before." The answer is simple. Those who report sexual assault and abuse in prisons are deprived of visiting privileges, have their personal property taken from them, have their phone calls taken and/or are placed in solitary confinement indefinitely. In most cases where rape and assault have been reported there is an internal investigation. IF it is necessary a guard will be transferred to another facility but rarely is a guard charged with rape.
We are confronted with the issue of the protection of women and girls everywhere in the world today. Whether it is the issue of sex-trafficking, women's rights in third word countries or archaic betrothal practices that lead to the deaths of young girls. As American's we are righteously angry at the abhorrent treatment of women around the world but we turn a blind eye to the egregious treatment of women and girls in our own country. Remember that juvenile facilities and prisons for women are staffed by men. Remember that men are given charge over women in very private settings such as showering and even going to the bathroom. Remember that they have complete control of their movements and move them about in handcuffs. Remember that although they have broken the law, they are still mothers, daughters and sisters. They are supposed to be in prison to correct their behavior not to be degraded, humiliated and violated. It is time for us to demand prison accountability, transparency and reform. They will come home one day and we want them to be better members of our communities not broken women.
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