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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:28 pm 
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Sex in men's prisons: 'The US system cultivates rape. If you treat people like animals, they behave like it'
by Patrick Strudwick
Saturday, 1 March 2014

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An inmate in Arizona's Maricopa County Jail who has volunteered to work on the chain gang. Corbis

The crook of another man's elbow is on my Adam's apple, pressing down, choking me. After just a couple of seconds, I panic and gasp.

Shaun Attwood, who spent more than five years in some of America's toughest prisons, including Arizona's infamous Maricopa Jail, is showing me how men in prison are raped. "Generally they put the victim to sleep with a choke hold – locking the windpipe like this," he says, rendering me unable to reply. "Within about 10 seconds you're unconscious."

Attacks don't always begin like this. Sometimes, "they'll lure them with drugs and get them really high – 90 per cent of prisoners shoot-up drugs". Sometimes they'll trick the victim into a debt and then make them repay it with sex. Other times it can start with a beating or stabbing.

Human Rights Watch estimated in 2010 – three years after Attwood left jail – that 140,000 US inmates have been raped. Other studies have helped fill in the quantitative picture: 21 per cent of prisoners in the Midwest reported being forced into some form of sexual activity, according to Prison Journal. Young inmates are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, says Just Detention International, an organisation devoted to ending prison rape. Similar statistics aren't available in the UK but in the year 2011 – there were 103 male and female prisoner-on-prisoner sexual assaults.

The statistics, then, we know. The jokes, of course, we know, too: "Don't drop the soap!" is repeated so often by so many as to become Britain and America's prison-rape refrain – a chorus of discomfort to muzzle the horror. But the 3D picture of prison rape in America, the how and why and what happens next, is scarcely uttered because those who survive the system almost invariably have no voice. Attwood, however, a tall, skinny, somewhat geeky 43-year-old from Widnes, doesn't just have a voice, but has written three books on life inside. And his latest, Prison Time, details the sex – consensual or otherwise – the prostitution, the pimping and the equal, loving relationships behind bars.

The details of which cast fresh light not only on the culture, politics and dynamics in America's penitentiary system, but on the nature of male sexuality itself. Heterosexual? Bi? Gay? Labels erode, irrelevant, in the absence of women and societal constraints. We begin by discussing rape because it is everywhere in prison and everywhere in his book, an ever-present threat.

"I was constantly mentally preparing to fight to the death to stop it happening to me," he says. "I would leave pens out [in my cell] – I was getting ready to, you know..." his voice trails off. Pens can be a deadly weapon. They can also blind. (A transgender inmate called She-Ra, whom Attwood became friends with, was so broken by gang rapes she finally stopped them by popping an eyeball out of one of her attackers.)

"I had a profound determination to stop it happening because once that's happened to you, everyone finds out and the whole prison society will treat you differently. From then on you're game for anyone to do anything to do you. Not only sexually, but in any way you will be taken advantage of."

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Shaun Attwood photographed in Widnes last month (Mike Poloway)

It's not only young men who are more likely to be raped, but obviously gay ones, too. What are the chances, then, that a young-ish gay man such as myself would be raped? Attwood looks down. "It is inevitable," he says quietly. "And no one on the outside is interested. Until someone's son is calling them from prison saying, 'I've got a cellmate with a padlock in a sock who is threatening to rape me,' they couldn't care less."

In 2003 – a year after Attwood's incarceration for dealing ecstasy on the Arizona rave scene – a federal law was passed, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, decreeing statistics must be compiled nationally and grants given to prisons to help reduce rape. This manifested in what Attwood calls "rape classes". "It involved us being taught about rape and being told we have to report rape," he says with a snort of derision. "Everyone laughed throughout and said to the teacher, 'We are not going to report rape!'. If you report anything in prison you're deemed a snitch and it's KOS – kill on sight – for snitches. At the end of the class everyone was saying, 'They might as well give us rape kits' – a how-to." Not that they needed it. Immediately after the class, "a mentally-ill prisoner was gang-raped. No one reported a thing".

Is there anything, then, that could be done to stop it?

"When you've got two guards watching hundreds of prisoners – to keep costs down – prisoners can do whatever they want. The US prison system cultivates rape. If you treat people like animals, they behave like it."

Unsurprisingly, in such an epidemic, sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates are sky-high. Attwood says in one prison, he counted up the cons with hepatitis C: it came to two-thirds. Many had HIV. The only ones receiving treatment were those who had taken legal action. And thus, some prisoners had full-blown Aids.

Without realising, Attwood himself illustrates how normalised inmates become to rape and sexual assault, to the extent they don't even recognise it. In Prison Time, he describes walking in on a young man being forced to fellate another prisoner, an act considered rape in several states and many countries. But when I ask if Attwood ever witnessed a rape, he says no. And when I ask if he felt he had been assaulted when another lag grabbed him, French-kissed him and groped him with hands moist with lubricant Attwood replies: "No, not at all. If I did that to a woman in a bar, that's sexual assault, but in prison the limits are completely different from society."

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Shaun Attwood, photographed by a fellow inmate at Buckeye Prison, Arizona, 2004

The man who grabbed him he had nicknamed Jeeves. This is because Jeeves was his "butler". Jeeves was sexually obsessed with Attwood and so offered to work for him cleaning his cell and looking after all domestic concerns – a dynamic from which he derived sexual kicks. There was no payment, just the thrill of it. He would make advances to Attwood fairly regularly, but was always rebutted. To the English inmate, Jeeves was comparatively harmless – before being moved to this cell, Attwood would have to walk past another every day in which resided a prisoner called Booga. He documents their first meeting:

"I'm pulled into a cell reeking of backside sweat and masturbation, a cheese-tinted funk. 'I'm Booga. Let's fuck,' says a squat man in urine-stained boxers, with WHITE TRASH tattooed on his torso...I can't believe my eyes when he drops his boxers and waggles his penis... He grabs me. We scuffle... When I feel his penis rub against my leg, my adrenalin kicks in so forcefully I experience a burst of strength and wriggle free."

For Attwood, escaping rape, as well as "murder, or even having bones broken or teeth knocked out", for nearly six years was "freakishly" lucky, and thanks in part to his "English wit" and "people skills" as well his friendships with some of the gang leaders. Other prisoners avoid rape – or at least consider themselves to be avoiding it – by becoming a "punk".

This relates to the word's original meaning – the receptive male partner in anal sex – but in prison becomes a job, an identity. You are a receptacle, owned by another. "They tend to be the younger, prettier inmates – or the transsexual ones," explains Attwood. "If you're a big, bad gang member, which gives you the right to have a punk to use for sex, as long as you're the 'giver', it's not considered remotely gay."

The particulars of this relationship can vary. The higher up the prison strata (which generally means the more violent) the gangster, the better looking his punk. "But he's got to fight to maintain that punk. It's a warrior society." The punk becomes their property. And as such, can either be kept for their sole use or pimped. "People use them like a commodity and rent them out," he explains. But it's only others with high status who hire them. "Some will allow their punks to be unfaithful with other punks only, which is called 'bumping pussies'. It's all tied up in notions of property ownership, with sexual jealousy a secondary factor."

The rules of ownership are also governed by race. With most prisoners grouping socially on racial lines, so, too, must their punks. "A punter – say a Mexican American – might rent a white punk from a white pimp, but a Mexican American wouldn't be running a white punk."

As Attwood utters these words in his rather resonant Cheshire tones – an excitable Gary Barlow if you will – he attracts several glances. We are in a vegetarian restaurant called The Beano, in Guildford, where he now lives. Tables of slate-haired women are seemingly unused to hearing about sexual slavery as they chow down on mushroom lasagne. They look round again when he describes a prisoner regularly selling his semen to another who used it in ways perhaps unsuitable to describe in a newspaper. And again when he enthuses about the aforementioned She-Ra melting down bits of plastic to make dildos. Needs must.

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An inmate taking exercise at Maricopa Jail (Getty Images)

Attwood is as out of place here as he was in Arizona's prisons. But the "shy" raver who went to America's Wild West aged 21 to become a stockbroker, before giving it up to supply the state's party scene with ecstasy, could scarcely care less. He is alive and five thousand miles from the world that stripped his identity like white spirit. Even his sexual identity, even after just a few years, started to wane, tracing a fairly typical trajectory for inmates. "Early on, the other prisoners told me, 'After so many years you'll start to turn', and I was like, 'No, no, no, I've got a girlfriend'. But, gradually, all my belief systems and conditioning started falling away. Being in prison made me question my own sexuality."

Three magnets started tugging at his old heterosexuality. First, prison mores.

"Any number of activities deemed 'gay' on the outside aren't inside," he says. "Being the 'top' in anal sex? Receiving oral sex from a [pre-operative] transsexual? Considered perfectly straight."

Then there were the transgender women themselves – found in male prisons because the American system doesn't recognise chosen gender. One in particular, called Gina, he describes lusting after, fantasising about, and coming "this close" to having sexual contact with, prevented only by her pimp.

And finally, there is the vast, gripping loneliness.

"The deprivation of physical contact in any form plays a huge role," he says, frowning and looking more forlorn than ever. "You miss the warmth, that bond, the intimacy, the touch." He enunciates the words as if salivating over an exquisite dessert. "Going without sex kills you – it's one of the hardest parts." At this he shrieks with laughter, a paroxysm of stress and relief. Now, he has a girlfriend.

But he wasn't just unusually lucky to avoid rape or extreme violence; he was almost anomalous in never engaging sexually with another prisoner. "The majority are at least receiving oral sex from a transsexual." One of whom, he says, cut her own testicles off in her cell, to quell testosterone.

But perhaps more striking and surprising than all of the above is the tender, loving relationships he documents. Mostly, couples keep their relationship private, as having anything valuable on display leaves one open to sabotage. But not all. "There was one couple – an older and younger guy – and the young guy had broken up with him, so he was crying his eyes out, running across the recreation field, shouting, 'You broke my heart!' in front of all the men. It was quite a sight."

And when forced apart, for example when one prisoner is moved to a lower security unit, they would then often deliberately get into trouble to be moved back with their partner. "Lots of these guys had wives or girlfriends on the outside who knew nothing about these relationships, and they'd return to them, on release."

Although unsure about the previous sexual identity of some of these men, Attwood is certain of one thing: the longer the sentence, the higher the chance of crossing the line. "Presently, I couldn't imagine ending up with a man, but I know you change over time – after a 10- or 15-year stretch I would in all likelihood be thinking differently. Your old life gets crushed out of you."

He also received some aching love letters from ostensibly straight prisoners. One of which was from a Mexican mafia hit man called Frankie who imagined being engaged to Attwood and explaining how he wants someone he can "make love to". "I spoke to Frankie on the phone last year, he's back with his wife. I asked him how he reconciled all this and he said, 'My mind works in all kinds of ways'." He shrieks with laughter again.

After everything the writer witnessed, it is perhaps no surprise that seven years on, Attwood remains psychologically scarred. "I still have nightmares," he says. "I used to get flashbacks." This might also explain the place where he chose to make a new life. "I don't want any more mad excitement. I've had enough of it, so Guildford's perfect for me. Just to be able to walk along the river, sit on a bench and stare at the water. It's the height of ecstasy".

'Prison Time' is available now (Mainstream Publishing, £12.99)

Additional research by Andrew Mackereth
Source: Independent UK.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:45 am 
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NYC guard-inmate sex scandal triggers jail review
By TOM HAYS
March 9, 2014

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FILE- In this July 3, 2013 file photo, former Metropolitan Detention Center guard, Nancy Gonzalez, center, listens as her attorney, Anthony Rico, speaks to members of the media outside the federal courthouse in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Tom Hays, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Jail guard Nancy Gonzalez gained notoriety by conceiving a baby behind bars with a cop killer. But her story of sexual misconduct at a federal lockup in Brooklyn doesn't end there.

Gonzalez claims she had sex with at least eight co-workers, including two supervisors, while on duty at the Metropolitan Detention Center in less than two years. She also admitted having sex with a second inmate.

The allegations of a broader, behind-the-scenes sex scandal that created potential security risks are contained in a document Gonzalez's attorneys prepared before she was sentenced last month to a year in prison. She pleaded guilty to having illegal sexual contact with inmate Ronell Wilson, who had been convicted in 2006 in the point-blank shooting of two undercover police officers.

The lawyers say Gonzalez told federal authorities about the sexual liaisons early last year. But while they aggressively prosecuted her, it remains unclear if anyone else has been disciplined.

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, confirmed that prosecutors had referred the matter to the Justice Department's inspector general. A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Chris Burke, also said that there was an ongoing investigation by the inspector general and that the bureau was awaiting results, but he wouldn't discuss the specific allegations. The inspector general's office has declined to comment.

Gonzalez's allegations, though perhaps shocking to the outside world, don't come as a surprise to those who have studied prison life, where a silent culture of sex — consensual or not — isn't uncommon, said Brenda V. Smith, a corrections expert and law professor at American University.

The fact that Gonzalez got away with having an affair with Wilson for several weeks suggests she was operating in an environment where "everything and everyone was fair game," Smith said. "I'm sure there are correctional officers who were not so surprised by her conduct. She just happened to be the one who got caught."

A letter written by MDC warden Frank Strada to the judge in the Gonzalez case made no mention of possible supervisory lapses at his jail, which houses about 2,400 men and women awaiting the outcome of federal charges against them. Instead, he suggested Gonzalez was the sole culprit and deserved the maximum sentence. Gonzalez, 30, "knowingly placed her own personal desires above her professional duties," Strada wrote in what he labeled a "victim impact" letter. "Ms. Gonzalez's betrayal has left many of her former co-workers feeling confused, angry and less safe in their daily job." Attempts to reach Strada for comment by phone and email Friday were unsuccessful. A lawyer for Gonzalez, Anthony Ricco, declined to characterize his client's claims beyond what was in the defense memo.

The memo claimed it would have been difficult to miss that Gonzalez was a deeply troubled woman when she went to work at the MDC in 2009. After her arrest, a psychiatric exam found she was suffering from an untreated personality disorder fueled by "deep-seated emotional shame and guilt" over severe sexual abuse as a child, lawyers said.

Gonzalez's "inability to reconcile her sexual dysfunction was known to her supervisors at the Bureau of Prisons, two of whom took full advantage of her condition and engaged in sexual activity with her," the defense memo says without detailing the time and circumstances of the encounters or identifying the supervisors. "Given her high level of sexual promiscuity with employees at the MDC ... it was only a matter of time before Nancy Gonzalez would be involved sexually with a detainee at the MDC."

When Gonzalez first crossed that line, it apparently wasn't with Wilson. The defense memo references her having "sexual contact" with another inmate, a convicted drug gang member, in 2011. Despite her reckless behavior, Gonzalez was given the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift in K-81, a unit housing mentally disturbed and other "vulnerable" inmates. Authorities say Wilson, who was awaiting resentencing in his death penalty case, was placed there to segregate him from reputed street gang members.

In March 2012, Gonzalez and Wilson began having sex in a vacant activity room next to his cell after she did her rounds. Perhaps worse than that, authorities said, the guard let him bully other inmates and created a risk that he could steal her keys and incite violence. Gonzalez had "a misguided emotional belief that being impregnated by Ronell Wilson was providing him with a lasting purpose to his otherwise tragic and dysfunctional life," the defense memo says.

Other inmates tried to expose the affair by writing an anonymous letter to a jail captain and putting it in a locked complaint box. By the next day, an enraged Wilson had the letter in hand and was threatening payback if he found out who wrote it, prosecutors said in court papers. Gonzalez later told authorities she had intercepted the letter with the help of another guard. That officer, she also told them, was one of her sex partners.

At a sentencing last year for Wilson after the affair was exposed, a judge questioned how he was able to "treat the MDC as his own private fiefdom" and called for an inquiry. "Not only did Mr. Wilson's behavior in prison illuminate his continuing lack of remorse and disregard for authority, but it also shed light on the apparent ineptitude of the Bureau of Prisons," the judge said. Wilson was sent back to death row in Terre Haute, Ind. Gonzalez is to report to prison in April. Their son, named Justus, is in the custody of her relatives.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2014 3:13 pm 
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Italian chaplain found guilty of abusing inmates
28 March 2014

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Alberto Barin

(ANSA) - Milan - Prison chaplain Don Alberto Barin was sentenced to four years imprisonment by a Milan preliminary hearing judge Friday for sex crimes including harassment, fondling and forced intercourse with eight inmates in a Milan area prison.

On Friday, Judge Luigi Garigulo issued the four-year sentence, significantly less than prosecution's request for 14 years and 8 months. Garigulo also did not recognize plaintiffs' request for provisional compensation as immediately enforceable.

Following an in-depth prison investigation organized by Italy's Deputy Prosecutor Pietro Forno, prison police and a rapid-response team, Barin was arrested and jailed on November 20, 2012, when investigations revealed that Barin used his power and position to obtain sex. Barin's defense lawyer Mario Zanchetti insisted on clarifying that the sexual acts were between adults and were consensual.

At present, the former chaplain is under house arrest at a convent.

Source: ANSA.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:26 am 
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The abuse reportedly happened over the past two years. Prison photo: Shutterstock

'Guards sexually abused foreign prisoners'
18 June 2014

Two prison guards in Sicily have been arrested over accusations of sexually abusing foreign inmates in their care, Italian media reported on Wednesday.

The guards were put under house arrest in Ragusa, south-east Sicily, Rai News reported on Wednesday. They are accused of sexually abusing a number of young, foreign inmates at the nearby Modica prison over the past two years. The guards allegedly forced the inmates into sexual acts, threatening to plant drugs in their cells if they didn’t comply. Drugs were also used as a bribe to pay prisoners for sex, Rai News said.

Although the Italian government has over the past 18 months improved prison conditions, inmates recently said the situation continued to be tense and chaotic due to chronic overcrowding.

Source: The Local Italy.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2015 8:02 am 
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Spanish prison staff accused in sex abuse scandal
By Jessica Jones
27 January 2015

Four members of staff at a Spanish prison, who are accused of sexually abusing seven inmates as well as bringing alcohol and drugs into the prison illegally, are set to appear before a judge on Friday.

The four members of staff, who all work at Brieva prison in Ávila, are due to be questioned over the sexual abuse of seven female inmates.

The first complaint against a member of prison staff was made back in November 2013, when a female inmate complained about being forced into sex. The case was brought to court in Ávila, but the woman later retracted her statement. In early 2014, another complaint was logged. This time a Brazilian prisoner said a staff member had suggested a threesome after he had sexually abused her girlfriend.

Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo described the case of one Brazilian inmate, 'C', who was told, after serving half her sentence in Spain, that she could return to Brazil to serve out the rest of her jail term. After being abused, however, she was informed that she would have to stay in Spain to take part in the trial; her hopes of returning home to Brazil were dashed. In the worst case, she will retract her statement in order to return home to Brazil.

There appears to have been a bribe system at work in the Ávila prison, with guards offering perfume, alcohol and phone cards in exchange for sex. One inmate admitted having sex with a member of prison staff in exchange for chocolate, while another was given €80 ($90) in exchange for sex.

Prisoners claim the four guards each had a different style of wooing the inmates. While one was friendly, bringing the women presents in exchange for sexual favours, two others were stricter, forcing inmates into sex.

The four members of staff will appear before a judge for questioning on Friday in Ávila.

Source: The Local Spain

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2015 12:50 pm 
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California Prisons Aim To Keep Sex Between Inmates Safe, If Illegal
January 21, 2015

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There's an inconspicuous metal box mounted on the wall of the gym at San Francisco County Jail No. 4.

When Kate Monico Klein turns a knob, the machine releases a condom in a small cardboard packet. Machines like this one — dispensing free condoms — are installed in all of the county's male jails. "We set [the machine] off to the side, so that people would have a minor amount of privacy," explains Monico Klein, director of HIV services for Jail Health, a division of the county's health department.

San Francisco has been distributing condoms to inmates in county jails for decades, but a new California law requires condoms to be made available to all state prisoners. California is the second state after Vermont to do so, even though sex between prisoners is unlawful here.

"I get about 10 of them every time," says Jail No. 4 inmate Robert Greve, with a laugh. He has been in and out of prison in several states, but this is the first time Greve has been locked up somewhere that provided condoms. "Condoms are very good to have around, I think, you know? Because it's a lifesaving device," he says. "A lot of people don't care about their health, I think." But even though condoms are available inside the jail, Greve says deputies still enforce rules against inmates having sex. "They freak out about it — like, I've seen them catch people in bed together and they're like, 'Hey, what are you doing?!' "

Inmate Rene Angel Ramirez, who is gay and HIV-positive, says condoms keep his partners safer and protect him from other diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia or hepatitis C. "We still have the need of sex, and believe it or not the straight men, while they're in custody, they do have sexual activity with other males," Angel Ramirez says. "It's sad, because I heard from other inmates how they ... get infected with HIV while in custody."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 7 people living with HIV passes through correctional facilities each year.

Back in the 1980s, San Francisco became one of the first places in the country to hand out condoms to inmates in the county jail. But three decades later, it's still one of only a handful of prison and jails in the country that do so. Often that's for a simple reason: Sex in prison or jails is against the rules in every state, even if it's consensual. And in some states, including California, it's actually a crime.

Still, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi says he supports the condom distribution program if it helps slow the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. "The law is the law," he says. "But should this behavior occur ... there is a safer way. We want people to be protected — and we insist on it, that they be protected."

But not all deputies are comfortable with condoms being available. "I could not report to you that there still is buy-in from the uniformed staff," says Matthew Freeman, San Francisco's chief deputy sheriff. There are reasons that even consensual sex is prohibited in jail, he says. "We know from our experiences running and managing these county jails that even consensual sexual activity amongst inmates can lead to very real problems," he says, like disharmony in the jail, which the sheriff's department says is a potential security risk.

In the early days, deputies also were concerned that condoms could be used as weapons or to smuggle drugs. And while Monico Klein of the public health department says that hasn't happened, she adds that condoms have been put to some more unusual uses. "We found that, among other things, the prisoners take the condoms and they use them as hair ties, they use them as pillows," she says. "One of the deputies told me that they blow them up and use them as balloons." And although that initially bothered some people, she says, "one of the things we realized is that it is another way of destigmatizing HIV."

California's state prison system now has five years to come up with a plan to provide condoms in all of its facilities.
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A new California law requires condoms to be made available to all state prisoners. That makes California the second state after Vermont to do so even though sex between prisoners is forbidden. But San Francisco has been distributing condoms to inmates in county jails for decades. As George Lavender reports, it's a program state officials might look to as a model.

KATE MONICO KLEIN: They simply turn a knob.

GEORGE LAVENDER, BYLINE: Kate Monico Klein runs the public health department's HIV services for San Francisco County Jails. She stands in front of an inconspicuous metal box mounted on the wall here in the gym of Jail No. 4.

KLEIN: We set it off to the side so that people would have a minor amount of privacy.

LAVENDER: Condom machines like this one are installed in all of San Francisco's male jails, dispensing condoms for free in small cardboard packets.

ROBERT GREVE: I get about 10 of them every time (laughter).

LAVENDER: That's Robert Greve, an inmate who's serving a short sentence in the jail. In and out of prison in several states, this is the first time Greve's been locked up somewhere that provides condoms.

GREVE: Condoms are very good to have around, I think, you know, because it's a life-saving device. A lot of people don't care about their health, I think.

LAVENDER: But even though condoms are available inside the jail, Greve says deputies still enforce rules against inmates having sex.

GREVE: They freak out about it - like, I've seen them catch people in bed together and they're like hey, what are you doing?

RENE ANGEL RAMIREZ: We still have the need of sex. And believe it or not, the straight men, while they're in custody, they do have sexual activity with other males.

LAVENDER: Inmate Rene Angel Ramirez, who is gay and HIV positive, says condoms keep his partners safer and protect him from other diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia or hepatitis C.

RAMIREZ: It's sad because I heard from other inmates how they have got infected with HIV while incarcerated.

LAVENDER: Back in the 1980s, San Francisco became one of the first places in the country to hand out condoms to inmates in the county jail. But it's still one of only a handful of prison and jails in the country that do so. And often that's down to one simple reason.

ROSS MIRKARIMI: Sex in prison or jails is illegal under the California Penal Code 286(e).

LAVENDER: That's San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. In fact, in prisons and jails across the U.S., sex between inmates is against the rules, even if it's consensual. In some states, like California, it's actually a crime. Still, Mirkarimi says he supports the condom distribution program if it helps slow the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

MIRKARIMI: The law is the law. But should this behavior occur - that there is a safer way. We want people to be protected - and we insist on it that they be protected.

LAVENDER: The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1 in 7 people living with HIV pass through correctional facilities each year. But even with condoms in steady supply, not all deputies are comfortable with condoms being available.

MATTHEW FREEMAN: I could not report to you that there still is buy-in from the uniformed staff.

LAVENDER: San Francisco Chief Deputy Sheriff Matthew Freeman says there are reasons even consensual sex is prohibited in jail.

FREEMAN: We know from our experiences running and managing these county jails that even consensual sexual activity amongst inmates can lead to very real problems.

LAVENDER: Problems like disharmony in the jail, which the sheriff's department says is a potential security risk. In the early days, deputies were also concerned that condoms could be used as weapons or to smuggle drugs. And while Kate Monico Klein of the public health department says that hasn't happened, she says condoms have been put to some more unusual uses.

KLEIN: We found that, among other things, the prisoners take the condoms and they use them as hair ties. They use them as pillows. One of the deputies told me that they blow them up and use them as balloons.

LAVENDER: And although that initially bothered some people...

KLEIN: One of the things we realized is that it is another way of de-stigmatizing HIV.

Source: Aspen Public Radio.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 2:42 pm 
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Italian chaplain found guilty of abusing inmates
28 March 2014

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Alberto Barin

(ANSA) - Milan - Prison chaplain Don Alberto Barin was sentenced to four years imprisonment by a Milan preliminary hearing judge Friday for sex crimes including harassment, fondling and forced intercourse with eight inmates in a Milan area prison.

On Friday, Judge Luigi Garigulo issued the four-year sentence, significantly less than prosecution's request for 14 years and 8 months. Garigulo also did not recognize plaintiffs' request for provisional compensation as immediately enforceable.

Following an in-depth prison investigation organized by Italy's Deputy Prosecutor Pietro Forno, prison police and a rapid-response team, Barin was arrested and jailed on November 20, 2012, when investigations revealed that Barin used his power and position to obtain sex. Barin's defense lawyer Mario Zanchetti insisted on clarifying that the sexual acts were between adults and were consensual.

At present, the former chaplain is under house arrest at a convent.

Source: ANSA.

Ex-prison chaplain appeals sexual assault conviction
4 March 2015

Milan (ANSA) - Milan prosecutors on Wednesday requested a term of seven years four months for Father Alberto Barin, a former prison chaplain convicted of extorting sexual favors from prisoners in exchange for cigarettes and other highly coveted items.

The 53-year-old prelate is appealing his conviction. Barin was arrested in November 2012 on aggravated sexual assault charges involving 12 North African detainees aged 23-43.

Prosecutors at his trial of first instance asked for 14 years eight months but the judge sentenced the priest to four years. Barin, who is under house arrest in a convent, has defended himself by saying his conduct involved consensual acts between adults.

Source: ANSA

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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 12:10 pm 
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Prison guard sexually assaulted in Arizona
By BOB CHRISTIE
May 9, 2015

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This photo provided by Arizona Department of Corrections shows Fernandes Masters. Corrections officials said a female prison guard was sexually assaulted last month by Masters, a state prison inmate. (Arizona Department of Corrections via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — A female guard was sexually assaulted by a male inmate at an Arizona prison in the second such attack on an employee in the last 18 months, corrections officials said.

The April 13 attack at the state prison complex in Yuma was only revealed by the state Department of Corrections late Friday after inquiries by The Associated Press. When asked why the department didn't acknowledge the attack earlier, corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder said the agency was focused on investigating the assault. "Our priority is to have a full and thorough investigation of the facts and make sure that is conducted to ensure that justice is served for the victim in the matter," Wilder said.

The assault follows the January 2014 rape of a female teacher at another prison that brought intense criticism of the Arizona prison procedures for safeguarding corrections workers. The bare-bones details of that attack were announced by the department shortly after it occurred, and other inmate assaults on staff often are announced by the department in news releases.

The most recent attack occurred in an office while the corrections officer was meeting with inmate Fernandes Masters, Wilder said. "The inmate attacked the officer during a scheduled meeting in the housing unit office, and no weapons were involved," Wilder said. "The officer called for assistance, staff in the housing unit immediately responded to the location and pulled the inmate away from the officer and secured him."

The officer, who was not identified, was treated at the prison before being taken to a hospital for evaluation. She was later released, but Wilder did not provide additional details of injuries, the assault or how the officer called for assistance. He also wouldn't say whether any security procedures were violated or will be changed as a result of the incident. A criminal investigation by prison officials is ongoing, he said. "Pending the outcome of this investigation and due to the nature of this violent attack, the department intends to pursue criminal charges against inmate Masters, including sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder," Wilder said.

The Yuma County Sheriff's Office and police in San Luis, where the prison is located, were unaware of the attack when contacted by the AP on Thursday. Roger Nelson, chief criminal deputy at the Yuma County Attorney's Office, said he also was unaware of the incident. But Wilder said Saturday that prison investigators have consulted with a deputy county prosecutor.

Masters pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2007 in a plea agreement that came after prosecutors dropped the death penalty, Maricopa County Superior Court records show. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. According to the original criminal complaint provided Saturday by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and a Glendale police probable cause statement, Masters admitted stabbing his stepfather to death so he could steal his cellphone and vehicle to sell for drug money on Dec. 22, 2004. Police discovered the crime after a fire was reported in the apartment of the stepfather, Warren Taylor. Masters told detectives he used three different knives to kill him.

Prison records show Masters, 31, has repeatedly been disciplined and has a history of assaults. Online Corrections Department disciplinary records show at least three previous assaults, including one on a prison staff member, and an indecent-exposure incident.

Emilio Ruiz, a board member for the state prison guard's union who represents staff at the Yuma prison, declined to comment Saturday. Calls to the executive president of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association were not immediately returned.

The teacher who was raped last year is suing corrections officials for failing to protect her. She was alone in a classroom giving assessment tests to inmates in a sex offender unit at the Eyman prison in Florence when she was attacked. The state workplace safety agency opened an investigation after details of the teacher's assault were reported by the AP in June. In January, the agency levied fines of $14,000 for two violations of workplace-safety rules, but the Department of Corrections is appealing.

Inmate Jacob Harvey, who was less than a year into a 30-year sentence for a brutal home-invasion and rape, lingered after other inmates left the room on Jan. 30, 2014, then repeatedly stabbed the teacher with a pen before raping her, according to investigative reports and the teacher. Harvey, now 21, has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon charges and awaits trial. His public defender, Paula Cook, has repeatedly declined to comment on the charges.

Source: Yahoo! AP.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2015 11:51 pm 
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Inmate who raped Arizona prison teacher gets life in prison
September 14, 2015

FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) -- An Arizona inmate who pleaded guilty to raping a prison teacher has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Jacob Harvey was sentenced Monday on rape, assault and kidnapping charges for the January 2014 attack in a classroom at the Eyman state prison in Florence. The teacher was in the Pinal County courtroom when Harvey was sentenced.

The 21-year-old inmate apologized to the woman, who is suing the state over the attack she says left her traumatized. Arizona prison officials are appealing a $14,000 fine state workplace safety regulators levied for not protecting the teacher. Harvey was in the first year of a 30-year sentence for raping a suburban Phoenix woman when he assaulted the teacher. The new sentence starts when the first ends.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:17 pm 
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Bartered sex, corruption and cover-ups behind bars in nation’s largest women’s prison
By Julie K. Brown, Emily Michot
13 December 2015

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Casey Hodge stepped from the prison van, trembling under the weight of her thick handcuffs and leg shackles.

The slight 25-year-old was led with a group of other women into a small room and ordered to strip naked. “Show me your pink,” said a female corrections officer, instructing her to squat and cough so that they could peer between her legs and certify that she wasn’t concealing anything.

Hodge, who has been legally blind since she was 16, then was told to remove her glass eye. “They wanted to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything in my socket,’’ she remembers. So she pulled it out with her fingers. The officers nearly fell off their chairs, she said, mocking her like children and pretending to vomit. “I felt like I was a kid, being bullied all over again,” said Hodge, who had never been in trouble with the law before her arrest on drug trafficking charges in 2012.

Hodge once dreamed of growing up to be a photographer. Now she was inmate No. 155778, sentenced to three years to be served at Lowell Correctional Institution, a state prison that houses the five women on Florida’s Death Row — and has the distinction of being the largest women’s prison in the United States.

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Casey Hodge, a former inmate at Lowell Correctional Institution, says she was forced to perform sex acts with a corrections officer at Lowell and that he mailed her sexually explicit letters while she was an inmate. Emily Michot / emichot@miamiherald.com

With 2,696 inmates in a sprawling maze of drab gray, un-airconditioned buildings, the institution sits amid rolling green hills and pristine thoroughbred horse farms in Central Florida. But the women who have done time here say Lowell’s quiet veneer belies the corruption, torment and sexual abuse within.

They say that over the past decade, the abuse has become intolerable. Documents show inmates have complained that officers from the Florida Department of Corrections spit in their faces, threaten to slam them into concrete and call them whores, bitches and porch monkeys. They say male prison staffers tramp through the showers, make them flash their breasts on a whim and force them to beg for basic necessities, like toilet paper, soap and sanitary napkins.

But perhaps the worst indignity of all, women say, is that the officers — both male and female — use their positions of power to pressure inmates to have sex and to perform indecent acts. Women alleged in complaints, filed between 2011 and May 2015, that the sex happens in bathrooms, closets, the laundry and officers’ stations. Sometimes officers go into dorms in the middle of the night, taking women to isolated areas of the prison, they say.

Many women comply because they feel they have no choice; others call it a matter of survival. At Lowell, inmates say, those who yield to the officers’ demands are often shielded from abuse. They can be rewarded with soap and sanitary pads, cigarettes, drugs and money. They get free-world food, like cheeseburgers, or meager feminine accoutrements that make them feel more human, such as makeup and perfume.

The inmates who don’t comply with officers’ demands, however, say they are harassed and humiliated; they forfeit plum job and bunk assignments. Often, they are threatened with “confinement” — a separation from the general population that isolates them and tests their sanity. They can also lose their belongings, and the privilege of visits from their families.

In a statement, Julie Jones, secretary for the Department of Corrections, acknowledged that prior to her taking over the department in January, Lowell was “poorly managed’’ and lacked proper leadership. She replaced the warden, fired an assistant warden and hired more than 100 new officers. In recent months, she has made policy changes and says that officers are now being held accountable.

The new warden, Angela Gordon, and other FDC officials contend that the alleged abuse — physical, mental and sexual — is not as widespread as inmates suggest. Prisoners, they say, tend to lie and manipulate to get officers in trouble or to get something they want.

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Angela Gordon, brought in to make improvements at Lowell Correctional, says the facility runs on rules that must be obeyed, but denied it is a ‘hellhole.’ Emily Michot / emichot@miamiherald.com

“Yes some of them lie sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that they lie all the time,” said Marion County Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway. Ridgway said there is clearly sexual activity happening at Lowell “akin to prostitution,” but gauging how rampant it is can be difficult because much of the sex is consensual. But that doesn’t mean a crime hasn’t been committed, he said. It is a third-degree felony for an officer to have sex with an inmate. Ridgway said he doesn’t have enough staff to investigate Lowell because the problems — and the prison itself — are too vast. “Some of these issues and complaints are well founded, and there are things that are happening that clearly are illegal and should not have happened,” the prosecutor said.

Aaron Johnson, a Vero Beach attorney who has represented Lowell inmates, said that consent, or lack thereof, is difficult to define when guards control every aspect of a woman’s life. “What I saw was that some of the girls were truly victims of rape and sexual assault and battery. I believed them when they told me it was unsolicited, uninvited and a nightmare,” he said.

Nancy G. Abudu, legal director for the ACLU of Florida, said the organization has interviewed several women from Lowell over the past few months who allege that they have been “coerced” to have sex through threats and intimidation. “We are looking into whether these allegations are not only a violation of civil rights, but an international violation of human rights,’’ she said. “The so-called punishment for an officer who rapes an inmate is to get transferred to another facility. Florida’s prisons allow officers to rape women in prison because the inmates aren’t considered to have any rights,” she said.

For Hodge, having to squat naked and pluck out her eye was nothing compared with what would follow. In a formal statement she gave to the Florida Department of Corrections’ inspector general, she alleged that in 2013 she was tormented by a sergeant who stalked her on the compound, sent her long, sexually explicit letters and pressured her into having sex by threatening to put her into confinement and extend her prison stay through loss of gain time — time off for good behavior. “We are nothing but animals to them,” said Hodge, who filed the complaint against the sergeant, William Oellrich, in September 2013. It was dismissed as unfounded over a year later, in December 2014. Seven months later, Oellrich was transferred to Marion Correctional Institution, a men’s prison about a mile from Lowell. “They think they are God. I did drugs, I absolutely made wrong choices in my life. But what they are doing in that prison goes beyond punishment.”

Complaints and confinement

    “They come up and handcuff you. Then they say something like, ‘I found this razor blade in your stuff’ and you say ‘that’s not mine’ and they say ‘well, it is now’; or they say ‘oh, you spit on me’ and I say ‘what are you talking about?’ and they say ‘do you know that that is assault? You’re going to do a year and a half in confinement unless you do what I want you to do,’ ” — former inmate Ginjer Ullman

The Miami Herald reviewed hundreds of pages of Lowell records and, over the course of the past year, interviewed more than 30 Lowell inmates — current prisoners, as well as former ones across the state. It examined four years’ worth of inmate complaints; a decade of misconduct allegations filed against wardens, assistant wardens, chaplains, instructors and medical staff. It pored over officer personnel files, inmate histories and criminal records, as well as prison health and safety reports and audits of Lowell’s medical facilities. It also analyzed a trove of letters and emails from women and their families, many alleging sexual, physical and mental abuse at the prison.

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The records and interviews suggest that the agency has for years ignored, covered up or dismissed allegations of corruption involving every corner of Lowell — from the chapel and food service to the former assistant warden’s office. The women described a system of flagrant sexual extortion, intertwined with habitual and illegal smuggling of drugs, tobacco and other contraband; excessive force against inmates for minor infractions such as talking in the chow hall — and a long history of officers forcing women to perform degrading acts.

Complaints allege that officers ordered a blind woman to “read” a Bible in front of fellow prisoners while laughing at her; encouraged women to participate in “breast measuring” and tattoo-examining contests; and just this year scribbled two inmates’ faces with yellow highlighter because they were talking in a hallway in Visitation Park, which is where inmates meet their families.

Records show, in recent years, officers forced one inmate to quack like a duck, and another to do bear crawls from the chow hall to her dorm. One sergeant, while ordering the women to form a line, announced, “Let’s take the Jews to the ovens,” a report alleged.

The yearlong investigation found that nearly every time an inmate filed a complaint, she was forced into some form of confinement, ostensibly for her own protection. Wo men in confinement are restricted to a 10-by-12 cell, with the clothes on their back and, if they are lucky, a few possessions. They get fewer showers and are likely to miss any classes they have signed up for. Inmates in confinement also say they sometimes don’t receive prescribed medication.

Julie Jones, the FDC secretary, was not available to be interviewed for this story because of a family illness, said spokesman McKinley Lewis. He did provide a list of policy changes, which include new guidelines for all prisons in the use of force, better mental health treatment for inmates and more training for corrections officers.

In an interview in May, Warden Gordon acknowledged that the prison had some “problems” but said it is now on the right track. “Do we have bad apples? I’m sure we do. Every organization does, but we’re stressing it’s not something we’re going to tolerate,” Gordon said, explaining: “I’ve tasked officers with looking at themselves in the mirror every day and asking: ‘Am I doing all that I can?’ ”

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Gordon, a 20-year veteran of the department who previously worked in male prisons, said Lowell is a challenge because women prisoners have different needs than men. A greater portion of Lowell’s inmates require extensive medical and psychological care; the women often have histories of physical and sexual abuse, as well as problems with addiction. The warden said Lowell has initiated new programs to help them feel closer to their children and families and to better prepare them for life after prison. “Our goal is to make them better citizens when they get out. Do you want someone we’ve given an opportunity to improve themselves, or do you want someone who has been mistreated and locked away and not given any room for improvement?”

But women interviewed for this story, including some released this year, say violent abuses — and sheer degradation — persist. Those who have seen the popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black say their treatment makes Litchfield Penitentiary, the fictional women’s federal prison, look like a women’s country club.

“I know that I’m in here for a reason,” said Theresa Livengood, 67, who gets around in a wheelchair while serving life at Lowell for killing her father. “But the officers threaten you — they say ‘I can bring in the boys and tear up your stuff’ — which means they take everything they can. They say, ‘Do you want to eat concrete?’ There is no accountability, they don’t answer to anybody, and it gets worse every day.”

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Told that Lowell has instituted reforms, Theresa Livengood, serving life for killing her father, said: “If you want to believe that, go ahead. I don’t live in fantasyland.” Emily Michot / emichot@miamiherald.com

Said another current inmate: “I’m serving 25 years in prison. There is nothing more that anyone can do to me except treat me like an animal, like they do. They put me in confinement, they take away my right to see my child. They mess with my mail, make us plead for hygiene items. We aren’t women in here; we are pieces of crap they scrape off their boots.”

Despite the fear of being placed in confinement, some inmates do file complaints of sexual abuse. FDC records show that in 2013, 2014 and the first nine months of 2015, Lowell logged 137 allegations of staff sexual misconduct and 14 allegations of staff sexual harassment toward prisoners. The department sustained just one — although Lewis, the FDC spokesman, said “many” are still under investigation.

Under standards set by PREA, the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, the state is required to keep track of sexual assaults and adhere to strict goals for detecting and preventing sexual abuse. “Last year, Florida was one of only six states that rejected PREA — a shameful decision given the state’s appalling record on preventing rape in its facilities,” said Jesse Lerner-Kinglake, spokesman for Just Detention International, a health and human rights organization working to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention. Florida finally went along with the standards this year, he said.

Reports from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics show that Lowell inmates reported slightly higher sexual abuse rates than the national average. The 2010 report found that 4.5 percent of inmates at Lowell reported being sexually abused — by either staff or inmates — within the previous 12 months.

But those numbers don’t tell the full story. Many women say they never report sexual abuse because those who do are punished in insidious ways. “If you report you are raped, you sit in a 10-by-12 cell with nothing but your uniform, and they close the door,” said former inmate Crystal Harper, who contends she spent months in isolation after reporting officer sexual misconduct. “They put you under investigation, they say for your own safety, then they leave you there until you write up a witness statement that it never happened.”

In the past decade, the Marion County prosecutor’s office, which has jurisdiction over the prison, has brought charges against two officers for sexual misconduct. Both pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served less than a year in jail.

Prosecutors say that without hard evidence, such as DNA or damning video footage, proving officer misconduct can be impossible. The prison has no cameras in its dorms, and few other areas, except for the confinement units, are equipped with working surveillance equipment. Additional cameras have been ordered and are scheduled to be installed, according to FDC.

But it is often the woman’s word against the officer’s — and witnesses can be pressured to keep quiet, inmates say. “The harsh reality is if an inmate says ‘an officer has sex with me’ and that’s all you’ve got, you don’t have a prayer. For many Lowell inmates, it’s something they are not forced into doing. It’s consensual, which doesn’t make it legal, but they say, ‘Hey I get better food, I get cellphones,’ so essentially they make a trade,” Ric Ridgway, the prosecutor, said.

Crisis foreshadowed

    “I have a daughter that was beaten, abused, neglected and left in solitary for 16 months with bare minimal necessities. She had a hood pulled over her head while she was beaten. . . . She will be getting out in a couple of weeks and I don’t want anything to happen to her. She has three young children to raise. They miss her so much.” — a mother of a Lowell inmate, writing to the Herald on Sept. 15, 2015

Florida has the third-largest prison population in the nation and incarcerates more women than any other state, except Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. No women’s prison in Texas, however, is larger than Lowell, which earlier this year surpassed the Central California Women’s Facility as the largest women’s prison in the nation. Most women in Florida prisons are serving time for nonviolent crime, and more than half of them are mothers of minor children. They generally serve shorter sentences than men, meaning that they require education, vocational training, rehabilitation and other programs to successfully transition to life after prison.

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Florida historically has failed to provide adequate re-entry programs for Lowell inmates, evidenced by two reviews, one in 2006 and another just this year. In 2006, under the reform-minded leadership of Secretary James McDonough, a retired Army colonel, the FDC commissioned a wide-ranging external review of the prison system. One prison stood out: Lowell. The survey team from MGT of America, a national consulting firm that evaluates prison systems, devoted an entire chapter to the facility, something it did with no other prison.

The study said that programming to keep inmates engaged and train them for life after prison was so lacking that it created an almost perfect storm of problems, including “unprofessional and demeaning interaction between staff and inmates.” It also said that the prison’s medical care was “totally inadequate” and that the institution had far too many “psych III” inmates — those on psychotropic drugs.

The FDC was advised at that time to take immediate steps to reduce “over-familiarity” between guards and inmates. The report said the institution not only failed to discourage sexual relationships between officers and inmates, but institutional staff members went out of their way to thwart investigations. “It’s a culture of corruption, and even the good staff look the other way,” said Laura Bedard, who was FDC’s deputy secretary at the time of the 2006 survey. The report was so alarming that she agreed to step down briefly and become Lowell’s acting warden in an effort to reform the institution.

Nine years later, Lowell, which consists of three facilities — the main unit, the annex and a work camp — spends 46 percent less per inmate on healthcare and 36 percent less on education. The “psych III” inmate population has climbed from 41 percent to 50 percent.

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The FDC said that since the first of July, 52 inmates at Lowell have received their high school equivalencies and 80 have received vocation certificates. But a just-completed audit showed that only 14 percent of Florida’s 100,000 inmates get any educational or vocational instruction or substance abuse treatment.

Women say that while Lowell does offer some education and vocational programs, space is limited and access often depends on an inmate’s connections. “You are paying your debt to society, but it doesn’t end there,” said former inmate Kat Jones, who spent 16 years in prison for grand theft and credit card fraud. “The officers, they are above the law, they dehumanize you and you lose hope. A lot of women come out of prison and sell themselves short, they continue to do drugs and are not rehabilitated.”

Bedard, considered an expert who has published and lectured about women’s prisons, said during her tenure that she fired or forced dozens of officers to resign for misconduct. But within two years, she and McDonough had moved on and practically all the jettisoned staff eventually had their jobs back.

State law makes it difficult to fire corrections officers who, like police officers, are sworn law enforcement officers protected under Florida’s Chapter 112, known as the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. The law, passed by the state Legislature, gives officers the ability to challenge any discipline, suspension or dismissal if the investigation does not follow very precise rules. Nonetheless, Julie Jones, the new secretary, has fired 924 FDC employees, 19 of them at Lowell. There have been three demotions, three suspensions and 43 written reprimands of Lowell employees since January, according to FDC.

The department’s regional directors, those above the wardens, have been required to reapply for their jobs. Still, many veteran wardens and regional directors remain in charge.

Critics say the biggest roadblock to cleaning up the agency is that it polices itself. The watchdogs charged with investigating officer misconduct came up through the system and work for the system. “It’s a huge agency with a lot of eye-winking going on,’’ said Bedard, who now works for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department. “Julie Jones has her heart in the right place, but you can’t surround yourself with people engrained in that culture. Change the culture first, then you can change the corruption.”

‘A lot of hatred’

    “The bad things happen when nobody sees. They can do a lot to me that you cannot stop. I wish I could speak out loud and save everyone from this hell, but I’m not risking my sanity.’’ — a current inmate who is too afraid to have the Herald publish her name

Julie Jones told the Herald that there would be no repercussions against women who gave interviews to the Herald, but some inmates believe that even Jones can’t protect them from powerful corrections officers.

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Julie Vanduesen says it disgusts her when corrections officers show off family photos then have sex with the inmates. Emily Michot / emichot@miamiherald.com

“There’s a lot of hatred in this prison, and it’s not the inmates — it’s the staff,” said Julie Vanduesen, 51, who is serving 40 years for second-degree murder. “It doesn’t matter how many people you put in [administration] — you can rotate people, fire people, but it’s still going to be the same compound. You have to take this place and shake it upside-down or bring the feds in to make this place right.”

Vanduesen said she watches younger, more attractive women manipulate officers to get what they want, and the officers, many of whom are married, use their power to also get what they want. She said she finds it disgusting how the officers show them photographs of their wives and children only to turn around and have affairs with inmates. “The sex on this compound is unbelievable, that’s all I’m saying. I look at these women and just shake my head. I can’t believe you are doing it, and it’s all for cigarettes and makeup,” she said.

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After Betty Riddle complained — and was wired by investigators — the corrections officer who sexually attacked her was arrested and went to jail. It was a rare outcome. FDC

Some women, however, say they do it for protection as much as privileges; an inmate who becomes the “girlfriend” of a high-ranking officer — such as a warden — is almost untouchable. “For some, sex is the only commodity these inmates can bargain with,” said Johnson, the Vero Beach attorney who filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Lowell inmate in 2009.

Johnson said his client, inmate Betty Riddle, was sexually assaulted by a Lowell officer in 2005 and 2007, and her complaints were ignored by the Department of Corrections. Riddle, then 27, said she was threatened by the officer, Troy Saunders, 41, who told her she would be placed in confinement if she reported the assaults. She reported them anyway, and prison inspectors investigated, setting her up with a recording device for her next encounter with the officer. When they met, Saunders initiated sex and she resisted, according to the lawsuit, but he forced himself on her. Inexplicably, the prison inspectors failed to stop him. FDC settled the civil case, and Saunders was criminally prosecuted. He spent less than a year in the county jail.

Cont'd...

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:28 pm 
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Sex and drugs

Although Lewis, the FDC spokesman, said women are given sufficient supplies, some inmates theorize that officers and staff deny inmates necessities, like soap and toilet paper, as another form of humiliation and control, forcing them to take desperate measures — like selling their bodies, smuggling in contraband and even selling drugs in prison — in order to have money to purchase toiletries, as well as socks, underwear and other items that they say are always in short supply.

Gordon, Lowell’s warden, said the inmates receive everything they are entitled to under prison policy. She said allotments of toilet paper — the item most women complained they don’t get enough of — are adequate. Inmates receive one roll per week but are able to obtain roll-off pieces if they run out, FDC said.

“They issue those inmates one roll of toilet paper a week. To me, that is wrong,” said a Lowell officer. “If you’re a woman, it goes pretty quick. If someone steals it, you’re out of luck. Sometimes officers are lazy; they don’t even want to get up and get them more tissue. Some officers just don’t give a crap at all.” The officer, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals from superiors at Lowell, said inmates get a “Holiday Inn”-sized bar of soap that lasts for only three to four washes. FDC said they can obtain extra supplies if they need them.

The item most women complained they didn’t get enough of? Toilet paper. Food is another commodity in demand. The women suspect they’ve gotten sick from eating prison food, and reports from state and county health inspections raise questions about the cleanliness of Lowell’s facilities. Inspections over the past two years have shown infestations of vermin and insects in dorms, as well as the kitchen. Two men were sentenced to jail this past summer for supplying rotten-smelling meat to the prison system in conjunction with a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme. Kitchen workers at Lowell told investigators they were instructed to spice the meat with garlic to hide the strong odor.

Former inmate Delores Borich, who worked in the kitchen, said she sometimes was tasked with taking the roaches out of the food before it was served to the inmates. “We actually had to eat stuff like that,’’ she said.

Lewis said that in recent months, FDC has improved the quality of food at Lowell by introducing more fruit and vegetables and replacing soy-based products with oven-fried chicken and beef patties. Still, many inmates use the money they earn by illicit bartering — and other scams — to also buy food in the prison store, or canteen, because they believe the food in the prison kitchen isn’t sanitary.

The bartering sometimes involves other scams that make money, inmates say.

“There are a million hustles in prison,” said Ginjer Ullman, 28. When she was released in 2013, she walked out with $6,000 from writing penpal letters to lonely men, dealing contraband and — when the situation required it — having sex with officers.

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Ginjer Ullman says sex and contraband are intertwined at Lowell, with inmates offering sexual favors in exchange for goods brought in by corrections officers. Emily Michot / emichot@miamiherald.com

“We’re prey. It’s like a lion with a bunch of gazelles. It’s a perfect breeding ground for sexual predators, and it’s a game to them who is f---ing who and who is involved with who,” Ullman said.

Officers, too, can make big money in the prison’s black market. Cigarettes, the prison’s other primary form of currency besides sex, can fetch thousands of dollars a carton. One cigarette can be sold for $10, and a pack can get $200. With 10 packs in a carton, an inmate can earn $2,000 or more because, depending on the type of cigarette, some can be broken down into six to eight roll-ups, which can be sold for $4 to $5 apiece.

Officers, who are allowed to smoke on prison grounds, smuggle in the cigarettes for the women, they say. Said the unidentified officer still working at Lowell: “On Tuesday, an officer will give an inmate cheeseburgers, on Wednesday, the officer comes in and gets oral sex. Then, on Thursday, she gets her cigarettes for the week. On Friday, she sells it and gets cash so she can buy toilet paper and sanitary pads.”

Florida prison officers, who work 12-hour shifts, start at $30,807.92 a year ($28,007 for “uncertified” beginners), and the base salary hasn’t been raised in eight years. It isn’t projected to increase next year, either, and as a result, the agency has had a difficult time keeping experienced officers, who move on to better-paying jobs with local police agencies. That leaves more inexperienced officers or those with troubled pasts to staff many of the state’s prisons. In addition to cigarettes — which a just-completed audit proposed prohibiting among staff, as they have among inmates — officers can also make money smuggling illegal drugs and prescription medications.

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Ullman, who worked as an administrative orderly, assisting staff, said she reluctantly provided oral sex to an officer who caught her smuggling in contraband from Visitation Park. She said she and three other women had an arrangement in which a family member brought tobacco and other goods into the prison in a McDonald’s bag, dumping it in the Visitation Park trash. Then Ullman would go clean out the trash bin.

A ‘BIG PARTY’

“No one ever checked the trash,” she said. She admits she didn’t feel good about having sex with the officer in exchange for his overlooking the transgression, but she showered when it was over.

Ullman, who served three years for leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries, explained: “Let’s say my ‘boyfriend’ is bringing me in cigarettes. And every time I go in the back and have some kind of physical intimacy, even if I hate him, and even if I can’t stand him, and cry every time I go in, nobody wants to tell . . . even if I cry and cry and cut my wrists up because I’m so depressed, then they only hurt me. If I go into confinement, I lose my property. I can’t call home. It’s a lose-lose situation, so no one wants to tell . . . and no one is going to believe you anyway.”

Former inmate Crystal Pascual said she had girlfriends in prison but considered many of the officers her “buddies.” She said they sometimes asked her to be a lookout when they had sex with the women. She would sit in the officers’ station, called “the bubble,” and play on the computer while the officers engaged in trysts with inmates in the bathroom.

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Crystal Pascual says she would sit in the officers’ bubble, or monitoring area, playing with a computer and acting as a lookout, while officers engaged in trysts in the bathroom. Emily Michot / emichot@miamiherald.com

The officers are often so absorbed by their smuggling and sexual activities that inmates are able to do whatever they want, moving freely about the compound, socializing, conducting business — having sex not only with officers, but with each other, she and other inmates said.

The prison has one warden, two assistant wardens and 515 officers to oversee nearly 2,700 inmates. Many women interviewed for the story said the staff is stretched so thin — and the officers so overworked — that it jeopardizes security. Reports show that Lowell officers have frequently been caught napping on duty. In 2013-2014, Lowell had $1.8 million in overtime — the second-highest prison bill in Florida. Overtime for the entire prison system has more than tripled since 2012, to $35 million, records show.

“It’s like one big party,” said Pascual, who served four years for fencing stolen goods before being released in August 2013. “The officers don’t pay attention. They’re sleeping, playing on the Internet, smoking under the pavilion.”

Women who have been released in recent months and those still at the prison say the institution’s sexual bartering system continues to thrive, despite Warden Gordon’s efforts to change the culture. The officer still at the prison, in an interview Thursday, said smuggling of contraband happens “all day, every day,” but added that in recent months officers have been admonished to stop calling inmates “bitches.”

Angelique Munnerlyn, a former Lowell inspector, spent nearly her entire career at Lowell, rising through the ranks from officer to institutional inspector. She and other inspectors were tasked with investigating wrongdoing. “She knew how things worked,” said Crystal Harper, who maintains she was involved with some of the higher-ups at Lowell. Harper said she filed many complaints against officers with Munnerlyn, whose nickname on the compound was “Munny.” “I knew her before she became inspector. She was cool with all the dirty officers because she went to school with them — they were all born and raised here in Marion County.”

Records show that the vast majority of complaints handled by Munnerlyn were closed as either unsubstantiated or “referred to management” — meaning the complaint went back to the warden to handle.

A top official who once worked for the FDC said unwritten policy dictates that if a complaint is a “management’’ issue, the protocol is to do nothing. “To question the inspector general is career suicide,” said the source, a former warden who did not want to be named because of fears of retaliation against family members who still work for the department. Harper said she directed Munnerlyn to places she could go in the prison to catch inmates and officers having sex. “I told her where to go, every Tuesday and Thursday. I gave her proof so she could take it to her higher-ups, or to the regional director so that something could be done,” Harper said. “She never did anything.”

Munnerlyn left the department on her own earlier this year to pursue other opportunities. She did not respond to requests for a comment left at her home.

The ‘Dream Team’

    “The shame, the guilt you only think about at night when you’re lying down. During the day, in front of others, you have a facade. You can’t be walking around sad, saying ‘I can’t believe I did this for him.’ You just harbor it, lock it away. . . . That’s how it is in there.” — former inmate Crystal Harper

Harper, whose grandmother and mother are corrections officers in Texas, said she quickly learned that she needed to get to the top of the inmate prison pecking order or risk ending up like some of the older, infirm and less attractive women, who endure some of the worst treatment from staff. Harper and Ullman said the younger women sometimes looked after elderly, infirm or penniless prisoners. They considered them like “mothers” and sometimes “hired” them to do odd jobs, like holding their place in line or mending their clothes.

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Explaining why more women don't file complaints, Crystal Harper said: “If you report you are raped, you sit in a 10-by-12 cell with nothing but your uniform, and they close the door.” Emily Michot / emichot@miamiherald.com

But the reality is that women who are old, disabled or unattractive lack leverage. Officers also tend to prey on women who they know have no family or money, the women said. “You have this culture where the women have formed a coalition of unity, as atrocious as it is,” said Abudu, of the ACLU. “One woman curries favor with a corrections officer by having sex, and that opens the door to get other women’s needs met. So you have a system where other women encourage women to engage in that same behavior.” Harper admitted that she “pimped out’’ other women, acting as a go-between for officers who wanted sex and inmates who needed things.

Pattie Aldrich, whose face was burned in an accident, spent three years at Lowell for selling prescription drugs. Because of the damage to her face, she isn’t supposed to be in the sun for long periods of time.

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A badly burned Pattie Aldrich was supposed to be kept from sunlight. The prohibition was ignored, she says. Inmates say sex is the way to get such things. FDC

“It took me over a year to get a ‘no-sun’ pass from the medical department. I had to stand outside every day for hours,” she said. “My friend, who is still in there, is handicapped and she has a ‘no-standing’ pass, but they make her stand anyway. Unless you’re one of the ‘preferred’ inmates who has a relationship with a corrections officer, the only way to make a complaint is to drop it in a box in the chow hall.” Added Julie Vanduesen: “I don’t have pretty hair, and I don’t go on my knees. You look at everyone else. They got new uniforms, T-shirts, socks, towels, underwear, but if you’re not a favorite, and you’re not pretty, you’re not getting nothing.”

Multiple inmates told the Herald that officer Kristopher Butterfield, 31, was among a group of officers called the “Dream Team,” because they would let inmates do whatever they wanted. “I would sit in the officers’ station and eat pizza with Butterfield. He was 350 pounds,” Crystal Pascual said. As a corrections officer, the sex was available to him and he took advantage, Pascual said. “They thought he was going to give them stuff, but he never did,” she said.

In 2012, Butterfield’s wife contacted a corrections colonel after finding letters from an inmate in his pants pocket, records show. She said her husband had sold some golf clubs to one of their friends and that at the bottom of the golf bag were more letters written by the same inmate. She told FDC investigators it was clear he was having a relationship with the woman. The inspector general’s investigators closed the case after Butterfield’s wife failed to show up for an interview and the inmate finished her sentence.

That same year, another inmate, Kimberly Grant, filed a witness statement that Butterfield was providing inmates with cigarettes in exchange for oral sex. After being being placed in confinement, Grant recanted and said the allegations had been mere rumors, according to the FDC report. Butterfield was fired from FDC in March after he was criminally charged with molesting a 13-year-old girl outside the prison. Butterfield denied the allegation, saying he only gave her a hug and patted her on the head, the arrest affidavit said. The charge was later dropped. He is trying to get his job back. “I never messed with any inmates,” Butterfield told the Herald. “You know the inmates lie.”

The wife of corrections officer Kristopher Butterfield told the FDC she found letters indicating the officer and an inmate were in a relationship. Butterfield was fired after he was criminally charged with molesting a 13-year-old girl. The charge was later dropped. He explained that he and his former wife were going through a divorce at the time she made allegations. He pointed out that he was cleared of all the allegations against him.

Officers have also been accused in FDC reports of getting too close to each other. Indeed, records show that on Sept. 3, 2014, Sgt. James Vogen told a prison inspector that he and his wife, a fellow corrections officer, were divorcing because he found out that she was having sex with one of his superiors, Capt. Ronald Bradshaw. One day later, another female officer, Rachael Rios, told inspectors that she, too, had been in a relationship with Bradshaw while he was her supervisor and friends with her husband, the FDC report said.

Inspectors interviewed a number of other officers who had heard rumors about the alleged affairs. Bradshaw denied that he was having sex with either woman. Vogen’s wife, Christy, resigned from the department and, after her divorce, moved in with Bradshaw, the report said. FDC investigators found no evidence that he had done anything improper.

A year earlier, Bradshaw, 39, was investigated for (and cleared of) allegedly having sex with an inmate. The inmate was captured on a security camera entering a sergeant’s office in Lowell’s annex. Bradshaw was in the annex office, though he was supposed to be on the other side of the complex, in the main facility, the FDC report said. “There was no documented reason for Bradshaw to be in Lowell’s annex,” the report said.

Bradshaw retains the rank of captain but now works at Marion Correctional, the male facility. He told the Herald the fact that he was cleared by FDC investigators proves that they were all false allegations.

Letters from ‘Master’

Casey Hodge says she was raped when she was 10 and started taking methamphetamine when she was 12. Drugs were an escape from the realities of living with her mother, a woman who, according to Hodge, drank heavily and mentally tormented her. Hodge dropped out of school in the ninth grade, around the time she lost her eye. By then, she was homeless and addicted to meth.

Hodge moved in with a couple in Silver Springs who had been cooking and selling the drug. They agreed to let her live there if she looked after their little girl. In exchange for drugs, she said she agreed to tell police — if they ever came knocking — that the drugs were hers. The dealer convinced her she would get probation, since she had never been in trouble. Marion County sheriff’s deputies knocked on Jan. 21, 2012. The arrest report said that David Cruz Colon, who was cooking something on the stove, dropped several bags of meth from his pocket. Hodge did as she had promised, telling deputies that she cooked the drugs. She was charged with trafficking, even though detectives were skeptical.

3 Number of years Casey Hodge was sentenced to. In exchange for drugs, she had agreed to tell police her dealer’s drugs were hers if they ever came knocking. “I inquired about how she manufactured the methamphetamine and it was obvious that she did not have the knowledge to do so,’’ a deputy wrote in the arrest report. By the time she was ready to change her story, it was too late. Her public defender told her that if she didn’t accept a plea deal, she could get more than 40 years. She was sentenced to three years. Colon, 37, who had a prior arrest record, got 18 months.

When she arrived at Lowell in June 2012, Hodge was assigned to an open dorm with more than 80 other women. Lowell has a mix of living areas, including two-person cells and open dorms filled with bunks. “They all look at you like you’re crazy when you come in the door. Then they all try to intimidate you,” she said. “I was scared. I didn’t know if I was going to get my throat slit or if I was going to get killed.”

Women at the prison sometimes get into fights, and those fights can be brutal. Despite the loss of the one eye due to glaucoma and worsening problems with the other, Hodge said she read murder mysteries she took out of the prison library and kept to herself. She also enrolled in a GED program, seeking her high school equivalency. Her health problems continued. Not only was her left eye failing, but the right side of her face was drooping. She said it took almost a year for her to get permission to visit her doctor, a specialist at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. “It was humiliating to be chained and shackled in front of a doctor I had been seeing my whole life. He said ‘stuff happens in life that is out of our control.’ He was very understanding, but people who saw me were pulling their children away like I was a monster,” she said.

When she returned to Lowell, Hodge was shaken and emotional. She said corrections Sgt. William Oellrich brought her a magazine article about new technology for people who are losing their eyesight. He sat on her bunk and read it to her.

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Corrections officer William Oellrich was accused of coercing inmate Casey Hodge into a sexual relationship and writing her explicit letters. The allegation was dismissed but he has been shifted to another prison. Facebook

“He seemed OK at first. He is older — not attractive — but he seemed OK. At the time, I felt like he was a safety net. He was comforting,’’ she recalled. She said he began to write her typed, unsigned letters, and she also wrote him letters. At first, they were innocuous, but as time wore on, she said he began to both write — and talk — about his sexual fantasies. “He lived in a fantasy world in his head. . . . The stories he made up in his head were disgusting. He made a checklist of things he wanted to do,” Hodge said.

One afternoon, he asked her to come clean the “bubble,’’ where officers monitor the wing. But this time, instead of offering a sympathetic ear, he wanted something else, according to Hodge, telling her: Have sex with me and do what I say, or you will be sent to confinement. She said he also threatened to extend her prison sentence, writing up disciplinary reports that would cost her gain time. Over time, they had sex at least four times, she said. “I asked him why. I begged, but that fueled him more. Then I didn’t care. He twisted and manipulated me. I was scared and gullible. I did what he said because I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t know what he was capable of.’’

Oellrich’s personnel file shows that as far back as 2009, he exhibited inappropriate behavior by improperly touching women and making sexual comments. One time, he led a group of women into the bubble and recited this ditty, according to FDC records: “Roses are red / pickles are green / I love your legs / and what’s in between.’’ A fellow corrections officer reported the utterance, and Oellrich was given a five-day suspension, FDC records show.

About the same time Oellrich was allegedly having sex with Hodge, another inmate reported that she was involved with Oellrich, FDC records show. Inmate Debra Decker told investigators that Oellrich would speak frequently about sexual fetishes and positions, including bestiality, the FDC report said. Decker and Oellrich spent enough time together to draw attention. She was so smitten with him that she tattooed her wrists with O and H. — a phonetic spelling of his nickname, Sergeant O — the FDC investigation showed.

“That’s the way they did it in there, the officers would pick which women they wanted and tell them to come clean the bubble,’’ Hodge said. “They have the power and they abuse it. Sexual things happened all day, every day.’’ Hodge said she grew more disgusted with Oellrich and tried to fend off his advances. She said he began stalking her around the compound, showing up at odd times at places he wasn’t assigned to be. Her mother told FDC investigators that when she and Hodge’s sister stopped by the prison to visit, Oellrich made a point of meeting them.

Lowell inmates have complained that officers spit in their faces, make them flash their breasts on a whim, and force them to beg for basic necessities, like toilet paper, soap and sanitary napkins. Hodge said that in August 2013, amid a falling-out, Oellrich took a piece of paper with her Facebook address on it and turned it in to prison officials, claiming that Hodge had slipped it into his lunchbox. He alleged that Hodge was trying to strike up a personal relationship, an infraction that promptly sent her to confinement.

Hodge told Munnerlyn, the inspector, her side of the story, and also handed over all his letters, the investigation noted. She told Munnerlyn that Oellrich had explained he wrote the letters when his girlfriend went to visit her mother in Tampa. The letters had various return addresses, most of them postmarked from Jacksonville. The sender on the envelope would be some variation of the name “Master,” as in “Y. R. Master.’’

In February 2014, the letters were submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to obtain fingerprints. During her investigation, Munnerlyn discovered that Oellrich did not have any fingerprints on file, according to the FDC probe. In August 2014, a year after Hodge reported Oellrich’s alleged assaults, Munnerlyn asked him to submit fingerprints and a DNA sample. He declined.

FDC later obtained Oellrich’s fingerprints from the FDLE, which keeps them on file for law enforcement officers. In November 2014 — Hodge was out of prison by then — the results came back: inconclusive. Hodge said she pointed out one card that had been handwritten. She said Munnerlyn assured her she would have it analyzed, but she never heard back. FDC records show the case was closed as unsubstantiated.

Released but still haunted

Before Hodge’s release, after the stay in confinement, the letter writer picked up where he left off. In the letters, the author relates how he yearns to see her on the outside. “Hello, my beautiful blue-eyed girl,’’ several of them start.

The letters, which were shared with the Herald, describe mundane things — movies, looking for a new job, going to school, buying a new car — and then segue into deeply personal areas. “I really can’t stop thinking about you, Casey . . . please remember the pictures, the more x-rated the better. . . . Take your time I know you will want to hook up right away, and I really want to also, but it isn’t as easy for me as that. . . ” one letter says.

Oellrich has not tried to connect with her since she left Lowell, Hodge said. He did not respond to requests for comment through his lawyer. In 2012, the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act mandated a new national set of standards, which critics say Florida did not adhere to until 2015. Today, Hodge lives in a small apartment with her boyfriend outside of Ocala. She hoped to reconcile with her mother, who had visited her in prison, but that didn’t work out. She said she was unable to obtain her GED because she was in confinement during a critical testing time. She lives on a $733 a month disability.

Self-consciously, she wears her hair swept over her glass eye. In addition to her failing eyesight, she said she has been diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful disorder of the pelvic cavity. She has no medical insurance and hasn’t been able to get treatment. She remains a convicted felon. That, her lack of education and her poor eyesight make it difficult to find work. She spends most days sitting inside the apartment. She keeps her treasured belongings in a single laundry basket. She has found little solace, but she said she is drug-free. “Sometimes I don’t want to be,’’ she said, weeping. “When I did drugs, that was always the answer to my pain. But now, I’m 30 years old and I have nothing.’’

Source: Miami Herald.

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Transgender inmate brings rape case in jail to court
September 21, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A federal lawsuit is continuing in a case where a transgender former New Orleans jail inmate claims she was raped by a male inmate at the jail that opened last September.

A spokesman for the New Orleans sheriff says gender identity is not considered when inmates are assigned to jail housing. However, if a male inmate is deemed to have "a strong female appearance," the inmate is placed in protective custody. Spokesman Phil Stelly said in a Wednesday email that Sheriff Marlin Gusman's office would have no comment on a specific case - a lawsuit filed this week by a transgender woman who says she was raped last year by a male inmate. Stelly said the office policy is to withhold comment on pending litigation.

The federal lawsuit says a transgender inmate was raped after being locked up with a male prisoner last year in the newly opened New Orleans jail. The lawsuit says the victim is a transgender woman arrested last September for failing to appear in court on a disturbing the peace charge. The suit names Sheriff Gusman, a jail warden and a deputy as defendants. The lawsuit claims she was put into a cell with a violent inmate who raped her. It also claims a guard didn't respond to screams for help.

Gusman heralded the opening of the new jail building as a milestone in reforming the violent New Orleans lockup. Critics say problems from the old lockup persisted, including failures to properly classify and separate violent inmates from vulnerable ones.

Source: AP

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Rape, abuse, death of girls at Guatemala home burned by fire
By ALBERTO ARCE and SONIA PEREZ D.
22 March 2017

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- When firefighters entered the home for troubled youth, they discovered more than two dozen girls on the floor of a locked room, most of them dead.

A moan rose from one of the bodies, piled on top of each other. When firefighter Danial Perpuac turned the girl over, flames came out of her mouth - she was burning up inside.

"That is something you cannot forget," Perpuac said helplessly. "I know I will have the smell of grilled meat and hair in my nose and throat for life."

The fire on March 8 that killed 40 girls at the Virgen de la Asunciуn Safe Home started when ringleaders took a match to a foam mattress to protest the abuse they had suffered there. Their hell at the government-run shelter began long before the inferno, as documented in several warnings from four different agencies. At least two orders for closure were ignored.

The Virgen de la Asunciуn home is on a hill 14 miles east of Guatemala City. The shelter, protected by high walls and barbed wire, is surrounded by an idyllic pine forest covered with mist every morning. The forest and ravines have offered hiding places for more than 100 children who have escaped what they consider a jail.

About 700 children - nobody knew exactly how many - lived in a home with a maximum capacity for 500. Some dormitories housed more than twice the number of children authorized for the space.

The majority had committed no crime. They were youths sent there by the courts for various reasons - they had run away from home, they were left in the streets, they were abused, they were young migrants. Most came from families so poor they could not afford the $50 in lawyers' fees to get their children out.

Once inside, the children lost out on schooling. Because of a lack of funds, their education was limited to six hours per week in classrooms with up to 80 students.

The abuse at Virgen de la Asunciуn was no secret, and the courts had intervened before. Teacher Edgar Rolando Diйguez Ispache has been in prison since 2013 and is on trial for alleged rape. Another employee, mason Josй Roberto Arias Pйrez, has been in prison since 2014 for raping a mentally disabled girl. He was sentenced to eight years.

Several reports criticizing the shelter were put out by the country's attorney general and the National Adoption System in 2015 and 2016. One recommended the gradual closure of the facility, and another its immediate closure.

Despite the complaints and the reports, the abuse continued.

The story of one girl who escaped the shelter on Oct. 30, after six weeks inside, was told in a case file seen by The Associated Press. The girl, 16, is not named because she is an alleged victim of rape.

She fled from her own house in August to escape the extortion demands by a gang that had been threatening her with rape for a year. On Aug. 13, she told her mother she had had found a job and would be home late. Instead, she ran away to protect herself and her family.

"She hugged me tight that day, tighter than normal," her mother said.

The mother reported her missing daughter to police. On Aug. 22, they located the girl, and a youth court sent her to Virgen de la Asunciуn. Officials separated mother and daughter as they cried.

"Mama, get me out of here," the girl begged, according to her mother.

The shelter did not have a procedure for visits, and they did not see each other for a month. By the time of a hearing on Sept. 13, the girl had been beaten, forced to get a tattoo with the name of a female staffer, and repeatedly raped, her mother said.

The first time, the female staff called her in for a physical exam and sedated her. She woke up and her whole body hurt, and she realized what they had done, according to the case file.

Several days later, they took her to the same place. This time, she was awake and tied to a gurney. The young man who raped her had his face covered.

The third time, it was several men, she said. They raped her and beat her.

A little more than two months after she was sent to the shelter, the daughter escaped along with three others. The girl was afraid to return home because that could mean being sent back to the shelter, but she contacted her brother. The family contacted their lawyer, who filed a motion for habeas corpus.

The lawyer managed to return the girl to her mother, but she didn't reveal all that had happened to her until after the fire. At that point, she said she wanted to testify against her abusers.

On Nov. 11, the state attorney requested that the center be closed. He asked that areas known as "the cage" and "the chicken coop" be closed within 48 hours. Both facilities looked like punishment cells, with metal doors and no windows.

Also in November, a state human rights prosecutor filed a complaint with the Inter American Human Rights Commission charging rampant abuses. The accusations included charges as serious as "forced recruitment for human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution."

There were complaints about sexual abuse by male residents against female residents, including some under 13. One girl was killed in 2013, hanged with a scarf by two other girls.

On Dec. 12, the Sixth Court of Children and Adolescents of the Metropolitan Area condemned the state of Guatemala for violations committed against the rights of minors guarded in the home. It also gave 48 hours to clarify the legal situation of a number of minors inside the home.

Nothing happened.

The secretary of social welfare, Carlos Rodas, who was responsible for the home, appealed the judicial decision. Rodas, who has since been arrested, has denied negligence and refused to resign. He blamed the girls' mutiny on them not liking the food, and said they had sharp weapons hidden in their hair.

"The problem is that judges mix children who have committed crimes with children abandoned by their families," he said. "We ask the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate but we do not directly blame anyone."

On March 7, about 60 girls escaped from the shelter, as some had done on several occasions before. They rebelled because shelter staff had tried to beat them, said a 14-year-old survivor who had been there three months.

The girl, whose family did not want her name used out of fear for her safety, said she was not raped but officials took away her food. The girls also were made to wake up at 3 a.m. to bathe in cold water, she said.

So the girls jumped from the roof of the facility to the wall, and from there into the trees.

Riot police caught them and returned them to the shelter by force. The police sprayed pepper gas in their mouths and eyes, hit them with batons and kicked them, the 14-year-old told the AP. Police did not comment on the case because of a judicial order that prohibits discussion.

The angry teens waited outside the shelter for hours. They started throwing things at the police. Girls complained that they were abused, attacked and beaten.

The escapees eventually were brought in and locked in a 500-square-foot classroom as punishment. It is as yet unclear who locked them in and who held the key.

By 7:30 the next morning, they had been held for about six hours. They were not let out even to use the bathroom, the girl said.

Four girls who were ringleaders at the home had managed to get matches to smoke cigarettes during their brief escape. In an attempt to protest the lockup and force somebody to open the doors, they set fire to a mattress propped against a window.

The foam stuffing was already coming out of the mattresses because girls used it to fashion pads for menstruation when they didn't have anything else. The burning mattress fell onto other mattresses, and the flames quickly spread.

Locked into the room, the girls shouted, "Help me! Help me!" the 14-year-old said.

Nobody did.

"I saw how they burned, how they screamed, how they died," she said.

She fainted. When she came to, somebody had finally opened the door. She ran out, and the staff doused the girls with water until ambulances arrived.

The girl suffered burns on both arms, a shoulder and part of her face. For many, it was too late. By 9 a.m., 19 of the girls were dead, burned and asphyxiated. Twenty-one more between the ages of 13 and 17 would die at local hospitals over the next few days.

Kimberly Palencia Ortiz was one of the dead. The 17-year-old had been a ward of the state for nearly a year. Her father was in prison, her mother had disappeared, and her grandmother did not have the means to take care of her.

"It is an injustice," Valeria Yojero said tearfully at her granddaughter's burial. "Nobody should die for being poor."

Source: AP

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