Tag Archive for sexual abuse

Denver Women’s Prison is Worst in U.S. For Sexual Assault—With More Than Four Times the National Rate

According to a new national study, an estimated 10.7% of inmates at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility claim staff members sexually assaulted them or were guilty of sexual misconduct between February 2011 and May 2012. The study, headed by Dr. Allen Beck, chief of the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, singled out 12 prisons—four female and eight male, including the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility—for a high rate of reported sexual misconduct.

The Denver Facility had an estimated 10.7% of inmates claiming sexual assault or sexual misconduct—highest in the nation and more than four times the national average of 2.4%.

Roger Werholz, interim executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, said:

I will not tolerate staff sexual misconduct. While the department has taken a number of steps to enhance security and to do everything possible to ensure safety, we will analyze these findings for opportunities to make further improvements.

Of the Denver facility’s female inmates claiming sexual abuse, 7.3% said they had been physically coerced or threatened with physical force—nine times the national rate of 0.8% of inmates. It is illegal for staff to have sex with inmates.

A sample of inmates from 225 prisons and 358 jails were asked personal questions before completing a touch-screen survey.

Werholz claims that timing may have been a factor in the results, since in 2008 an inmate sued in federal court, claiming she had been sexually assaulted by a corrections officer. She was awarded $1.3 million, and he was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Another factor, according to Werholz, was a new anti-contraband policy requiring more intrusive body searches. Inmates filed many grievances, and the policy was changed.

Dawn Adams, age 42, who is serving a 24-year robbery sentence, said:

Many inmates are afraid to report sexual assaults, because when they have in the past, staff have accused them of making false reports, and they have been placed in administrative segregation. So none of us say nothing about nothing.

The Department of Corrections has instigated a series of measures that it credits for a decrease in sexual assault claims at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, to 19 in 2012 from 66 in 2008. For example, 200 surveillance cameras have been installed in the prison.

The report also looked at inmate-on-inmate abuse and said that 4% of state and federal inmates reported being sexually victimized in the past year, down from 4.5% in a 2007 survey. So at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, 12.2% of women in the weighted survey said they were sexually abused by either staff or other inmates.

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Nearly 10% of Incarcerated Youth Were Sexually Victimized in 2012

Português: Uma cela moderna em Brecksville Pol...

Brecksville Police Department, Brecksville, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An estimated 9.5% of youngsters in state juvenile facilities and state-contract institutions (1,720 kids and teens nationwide) reported one or more incidents of sexual victimization in 2012, according to a recent survey. Facility staff were involved in 1,390 cases (7.7%), while another youth was involved in 450 cases (2.5%).

Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina had the highest rate of incarcerated youth sexual victimization (more than 15%), while Massachusetts, New York, Delaware and D.C. had no reported cases. Males (8.2%) were more likely than females (2.8%) reporting sex with facilities staff, and more than 90% of all youngsters reporting sexual misconduct were victimized by female staff.

Nearly 18% of youth sexually assaulted by other young inmates reported being injured in the incident, versus 6% victimized by staff. Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth had a significantly higher rate of victimization by other youths (10.3%) than heterosexuals (1.5%). Force was threatened in 68% of youth-youth incidents, versus 37% in staff-youth cases. The survey was mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PRAE).

According to the survey, authored by Allen Beck, David Cantor and Tim Smith, the “Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2012, conducted with 8,707 youths between February and September 2012:

Based on comparable state juvenile facilities surveyed in 2008–09 and 2012, the overall rate of sexual victimization dropped from 12.6% to 9.9%. The decline was linked to a drop in staff sexual misconduct with force (from 4.5% of youth in to 3.6%) and a drop in staff sexual misconduct without force (from 6.7%to 5.1%).

Ohio was the worst state, with an estimated one-fifth of juveniles reported being sexually victimized at least once in the previous year. Three of the state’s four juvenile correctional facilities were among the 13 facilities nationwide having the highest rates of assaults. For example, the Circleville facility had the second highest rate of assaults among all the facilities studied (30%). Fully 90% of those assaults involved staff sexual misconduct. Half of that sexual activity was forced or coerced.

According to the Chicago News:

Illinois ranked among the four worst states for reported rates of sexual victimization in juvenile detention facilities. The federal report points to a system failure within the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice that must be addressed at every level, from administration to line staff. Youth must have a safe and reliable way of reporting sexual victimization and getting help.

Among other things, PREA requires states to designate an entity, which is operationally independent from the juvenile justice agency’s chain of command, to receive youths’ reports of sexual victimization to ensure that juveniles can bring complaints without fear of retaliation.

Tennessee has a higher rate (13%) of reported sexual assaults on imprisoned minors than the U.S., and there is good news and bad news regarding different facilities. The John S. Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville had the highest rate of estimated sexual victimization in 2012, at 19.5%, up from 16.3% in 2010. On the other hand, the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center had one of the highest rates in the county, three years ago, at 26%. But between the two studies, Woodland Hills’ rate dropped to 6.7% in 2012.

The survey results come just two months before the federal government is scheduled to start enforcing new sexual-assault-prevention standards at the its detention facilities. These include providing inmates access to crisis hotlines, training medical examiners to identify abuse and doing audits every three years.

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Across the Pond: Incarcerated Women in the U.K.

Maggots in my Sweet PotatoesThe situation of women in prison is well known to us at HUMANE EXPOSURES.

Our book, Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time, is the first in a photojournalistic series addressing the social issues of child abuse and neglect, homelessness, incarceration, and the special needs of women behind bars. It would seem that the sort of personal narratives shared in that work are shared by the women incarcerated across the Atlantic in the U.K.

Thea C. Garland, a reporter for Global Post, sheds light on the changing view of women’s incarceration that arrived with the new administration last May. The new Secretary of Justice, Kenneth Clarke, has stated that he believes there is no link between falling crime rates and rising levels of imprisonment. Evidently, he has begun a campaign against short prison sentences. In addition, Prime Minister David Cameron seems to share his views, having called short jail terms “meaningless.”

Garland brings us some startling statistics about the global extent of these issues:

Not since the mid-19th century have there been so many women in British jails. Britain’s female prison population has increased 60 percent since 1997, compared to a 28 percent increase for men.

‘Practically every country in the world, rich and poor, is seeing their social fabric disintegrate as more and more women are being charged and held in custody, often long distances from families,’ the World Health Organization noted in a report last year.

The numbers that Garland reports for the U.S. are also unsettling:

While women make up only 7 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons in the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 2000 and 2008, the female prison population in America rose by 23 percent. More than half of women in federal prisons said they were mothers.

“Down under,” another former British colony is not exempt from the trend:

In Australia, the imprisonment rate for women rose by 209 percent between 1984 and 2003, but only 75 percent for men, according to the report ‘New Gender Rights for Women Prisoners and Offenders.’

In Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time, the photographs of Susan Madden Lankford are accompanied by the words and stories of women and workers in a California women’s jail. These women’s crimes are often intertwined with prior abuse, mental health problems, and addiction issues. Garland holds a British mirror up to these narratives and finds the reflection to be quite similar:

A report by a British penal reform charity, The Prison Reform Trust, revealed that a staggering 70 percent of British female prisoners had two or more mental health problems; more than a third said they had attempted suicide at some point. More than half of women in British prisons had suffered from domestic violence and one in three had been sexually abused, according to the trust.

The Howard League for Penal Reform states that women account for roughly 50% of all incidents where harm was self-inflicted, but make up only 5 % of the total prison population. With a 50% rise in incidents of this nature between 2003 and 2007, the numbers look grim.

Follow the  link below to read  the rest of  Garland’s article — it is thoughtful and dense with information. When you’re done, stop back and let us know your thoughts.

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Source: “UK: When jail doesn’t work,”  The Global Post, 08/05/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.” Used with permission.

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