Tag Archive: sexual assault

Why Americans Don’t Care About Prison Rape

alcatraz_prison_block_cc_imgFrom The Nation

In June of 2012, the New York Times “Room for Debate” feature considered whether or not convicted youth offenders should be treated differently than adult convicts in the penal system. Those in favor of trying some youth offenders in adult courts included a victims’ advocate, and an attorney from the conservative Heritage Foundation; those against included an inmate at California’s San Quentin prison, and a human rights activist. The victims’ advocate and the attorney from the Heritage Foundation talked about extreme cases of violence and the benefits of stern consequences. The inmate and the human rights activist talked about rape.

“The suicide and sexual abuse rates of younger prisoners are higher than those of the physically mature,” Gary Scott, the inmate, noted: “how can rehabilitation be possible in such a dangerous environment?” Scott was incarcerated at age sixteen.

T.J. Parsell, the human rights advocate, put it like this: “In early 2003, I testified on Capitol Hill with Linda Bruntmyer, a mother from Texas whose 17-year-old son was incarcerated after setting a trash bin on fire. In prison, he was raped repeatedly. He later hanged himself inside his cell. I felt a special bond with Linda, because I too had been raped in prison at 17.”

Taken together, the accounts of the carceral system featured in the Times’s roundtable on youth offenders span the entire American conception of prison itself. On one hand, prisons are understood as the terminus at the end of a long line of injustices adjudicated by a cold bureaucracy. On the other hand, American prisons are infamous for their brutality, especially when it comes to sexual violence. Being sent to prison is, in this sense, not the conclusion of the criminal justice process but the beginning of long-term torture.

That prisons routinely house thousands upon thousands of instances of sexual exploitation and rape is at the very least tolerated, and at most subtly appreciated as part of their punitive purpose. Our collective meh at the bracing reality of prison rape may be partially premised on the fact that the problem seems contained; but like most severe sicknesses, it only appears that way, and not for long. (more…)

Time to Speak Up: Women’s Prison Resistance in Alabama

tutwilerBy Victoria Law

Both incarcerated women and the U.S. Department of Justice agree: The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala., is a hellish place. In a 36-page letter that the DOJ issued to the Alabama State Governor Robert Brentley in January, the agency declared, “The State of Alabama violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to protect women prisoners at Tutwiler from harm due to sexual abuse and harassment from correctional staff.”

Federal investigators found that, for nearly two decades, staff members at Tutwiler have sexually assaulted women and compelled them into sex to obtain necessities, such as feminine hygiene products and laundry service. Women who report sexual abuse are placed in solitary confinement, where they are given lie detector tests and are frequently threatened by other staff.

But while the DOJ’s letter — and conditions in Tutwiler — made headlines, less attention has been paid to the activism and organizing by women inside Alabama’s prisons. During the department’s investigation, for example, it received 233 letters from women currently incarcerated at Tutwiler detailing a host of concerns about the sexual abuse they’ve either personally experienced or witnessed. This figure does not include the letters that women have been sending to the Department of Justice and other government entities for years before the investigation was launched. When incarcerated, sending testimony letters is a potentially dangerous action. Women risked prison staff opening their letters and reading their complaints — and retaliating against them. Two hundred thirty-three women decided to take that risk. (more…)

On the Way to Solitary, Women in Massachusetts Jail Get Strip Searched and Videotaped

WMRWCCAerial1WebBy Victoria Law / From Solitary Watch

“When women are moved to the Segregation Unit for mental health or disciplinary reasons, they are strip searched. With four or more officers present, the inmate must: take off all her clothes, lift her breasts and, if large, her stomach, turn around, bend over, spread her buttocks with her hands and cough, and stand up and face the wall. If the woman is menstruating, she must remove her tampon or pad and hand it to a guard. An officer with a video camera stands a few feet away and records the entire strip search. This officer is almost always male.”

This is a description of what has happened when women are taken to solitary confinement at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center (WCC) in Chicopee. The procedure has been followed not only for women being sent to isolation for violating jail rules but also women who are being placed on suicide watch or who have requested protective custody. Since September 15, 2008, on approximately 274 occasions, a male corrections officer recorded the strip search with a handheld video camera; 178 women were affected by this practice.

In 2009, Debra Baggett wrote a letter to the law office of Howard Friedman about this practice. The office, which has been involved in a number of cases involving prisoner rights and strip searches, investigated Baggett’s complaints. “We found that the jail had a written policy allowing male guards to videotape the strip searches,” stated David Milton, the attorney representing the women. When the jail refused to change its policy, Baggett and a group of other women held at the jail filed suit. (more…)

New ACLU Report Examines Devastating Impact of Solitary Confinement on Women

ross-hawaii-youth-correctional-facility-kailua-hawaii-2009By Victoria Law/ From Solitary Watch

Today, the ACLU released Worse than Second Class: Solitary Confinement of Women in the United States. Recognizing that women in solitary are often ignored, the report examines the gendered impact of solitary and issues a series of recommendations. These recommendations assume that vulnerable populations will continue to be incarcerated and focus on ameliorating the harmful effects of solitary.

Further Harming Those with Mental Illness

Nearly seventy-five percent of incarcerated women have been diagnosed with mental illness, a rate much higher than that of their male counterparts. The report notes that a disturbing number of women with mental illness are held in solitary, sometimes for behavior that is beyond their control. Mental health experts recognize that long-term isolation is harmful for anyone, but particularly for those with pre-existing mental illness.

Recommendation: People (of all genders) with mental illness should never be held in isolation. Furthermore, women should be evaluated by competent and qualified practitioners to assess their medical and mental health conditions before being placed in solitary.

Re-Traumatizing Survivors of Past Abuse and Increasing Likelihood of Future Abuse

The majority of incarcerated women have reported past physical or sexual abuse. The lack of contact, human interaction and mental stimulation contribute to psychological deterioration for people who have experienced abuse. In addition, across the country, women in solitary are regularly supervised by male guards even when showering, changing clothes and using the toilet.

Solitary confinement also places a woman at greater risk for physical and/or sexual abuse by prison staff. Isolated from the general population, these abuses are easier for staff to hide. (more…)

Alabama Women’s Prison Still Guilty of Sexual Abuse

tutwilerFrom The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Department of Corrections officials and Gov. Robert Bentley’s office say they had been working to improve conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison before a federal investigation found evidence of inmates being sexually abused by staff and fellow prisoners.

A report from the U.S. Department of Justice said instances of sexual abuse at the hands of prison staff and others have been underreported for nearly 20 years. The report also said jail staff condoned a strip show inside the facility and would deliberately watch inmates shower and use the restroom.

Federal officials visited the prison in April and recently sent their findings to Bentley in a 36-page letter. Investigators have said prisoners there fear for their safety. (more…)

Women in Solitary Confinement: Sent to Solitary for Reporting Sexual Assault

Women who report being sexually assaulted by prison staff face abuse and isolation.

Women who report being sexually assaulted by prison staff face abuse and isolation.

From Solitary Watch

By Vikki Law

It seems absurd that a person who has been sexually assaulted would be punished for speaking up, especially since prison policy prohibits sexual contact between staff and the people whom they guard. Yet, in many women’s prisons, those who report rape and other forms of sexual assault by prison personnel are often sent to solitary confinement.

After enduring over a year of repeated sexual assaults by a guard, Stacy Barker became one of 31 women incarcerated in Michigan who filed Nunn v MDOC, a 1996 lawsuit against the Department of Corrections for the widespread sexual abuse by prison guards. The following year, Barker was repeatedly sexually assaulted by an officer, who was also a defendant in Nunn. After a month of silence, she reported the assaults to a prison psychiatrist. Barker was immediately placed in segregation and then transferred to Huron Valley Center, which was then a psychiatric hospital for prisoners. There, she reported that hospital attendants verbally harassed her.

In October 1997, Barker attempted suicide. Barker did not receive counseling or psychiatric evaluation. Instead, three male guards stripped her naked, placed her in five-point restraints (a procedure in which a prisoner is placed on her back in a spread-eagle position with her hands, feet and chest secured by straps) on a bed with no blanket for nine hours. She was then placed on suicide watch. She reported that one of the staff who monitored her repeatedly told her he would “bring her down a few rungs.” (more…)

The Ex-Worker #8: Prison Abolition

ep8-250From Crimethinc.

Though a week late (sorry!), the eighth episode of the Ex-Worker is our longest yet, and wraps up our series on prisons and police, as we look at ways to dismantle the prison industrial complex and to address harm directly without the state. We interview members of Critical Resistance and Support New York to learn about how prison abolition and community accountability processes play out in practice. You’ll also hear also a review of a new collection of writings from political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoats, responses to listener feedback and anarchist perspectives on gun control, plus a letter from revolutionary Tom Manning about his transfer from solitary confinement. And of course we’ve got news from struggles worldwide, event announcements, Contradictionary entries, and plenty more.

You can download this and all of our previous episodes on our podcast page. You can also subscribe in iTunes here or just add the feed URL to your podcast player of choice. Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email to podcast@crimethinc.com. A new episode is supposed to be released on the first and third Sunday of every month.

Severe Physical and Sexual Abuse by Guards at Three Alabama Prisons

adocFrom Equal Justice Initiative

EJI has filed a complaint that documents severe physical and sexual abuse and violence perpetrated by several correctional officers and officials in three Alabama prisons for men. EJI has made allegations to the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) of widespread physical abuse and misconduct at the Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama. EJI reports that in the last six months there have been nearly a dozen instances where prisoners at Elmore have been handcuffed, stripped naked, and then beaten by several guards. EJI also has uncovered evidence that male officers sexually abused male prisoners at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama, and Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama. EJI is now asking ADOC to investigate and protect prisoners from physical and sexual violence by prison employees at these facilities.

At Elmore Correctional Facility, EJI reports that a group of officers have been taking inmates into isolated areas of the prison where they are handcuffed and stripped naked and then severely beaten. Several inmates have been so severely beaten that they have required hospitalization and suffered permanent injuries. EJI’s complaint implicates the warden and other high-ranking prison officials in some of the beatings and misconduct. A complaint about problems at Elmore has been made with ADOC officials and law enforcement agencies.

At Donaldson and Bibb correctional facilities, EJI reports that male correctional officers forced young male inmates to perform sex acts and threatened to file disciplinary charges against them if they refused or reported the abuse. In several cases, incarcerated prisoners were forced to perform oral sex and were subjected to other forms of sexual abuse by correctional staff. Biological evidence supporting the sexual assault allegations has been turned over to ADOC authorities. (more…)

New Poster Series Available, “Rape Culture is…”

rapecultureisFrom Anarchist News

This series of ten posters was created in the midst of an ongoing scandal at the University of North Carolina at CHapel Hill, which has recently been plagued by bad press for its role in suppressing information about sexual assault and in its treatment of several students raped on campus. After five students submitted a complaint to the US Department of Education, the Universityin turn threatened to expel via Honor Court one of the five women for creating an “intimidating environment” on campus for her rapist. The administration and Honor Court’s handling of events has resulted in an uproar, with large amounts of bad press, two protests, and a wave of graffiti and wheatpasting on campus.

A week prior to this initial complaint an attack anarchists smashed out five windows of a fraternity house on campus. This was followed with another act of vandalism in February. Discussions around tactics, analysis, and the role of non-students in attacking the rape culture perpetuated by structures at UNC have all been interesting and heated. The posters are not specific to the local situation, however, and we encourage to print and post them everywhere. They can be found here: http://www.mediafire.com/?v11n6uabc80xuo9,lv7yc7gnhg6k4n6,fw61psdvjcrqsn…

and here in a zip file here: https://hotfile.com/dl/197148148/5376849/Archive.zip.html

there are direct links to the pdfs on sprout distro: http://www.sproutdistro.com/2013/03/15/poster-series-rape-culture-is/

Protest in Solidarity with Rape Survivors Facing UNC Retaliation

Image

Several protesters hold a banner in response to the Honor Court accusation that Gambill is “guilty” of intimidating her attacker.

From News and Observer

CHAPEL HILL — Pressure built Friday for the UNC-Chapel Hill student court to drop a charge against Landen Gambill, a sophomore who was accused of intimidating an ex-boyfriend after she spoke out about sexual assault.

About 200 people gathered at the center of campus to protest the university’s handling of sexual assault cases. Several dozen carried placards and whistles to show their support for Gambill, who has been called a whistleblower for joining several other women in filing a federal complaint against UNC-CH in January. (more…)