Friday, January 24, 2014

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

Solitary Confinement
Original Article


By Victoria Law

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

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

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

Placing women in solitary confinement for reporting staff sexual harassment or abuse is far from rare. In 1996, Human Rights Watch found that, in Michigan, incarcerated women who report staff sexual misconduct are placed in segregation pending the institution’s investigation of their cases. The placement is allegedly for the woman’s own protection. The five other states investigated also had similar practices of placing women in segregation after they reported abuse.

Not much has changed in the thirteen years since Human Rights Watch chronicled the pervasive and persistent sexual abuse and use of retaliatory segregation in eleven women’s prisons. Former staff (PDF) at Ohio’s Reformatory for Women have stated that women who reported sexual abuse are subjected to lengthy periods of time in solitary confinement where cells often had feces and blood smeared on the wall. In Kentucky, a woman who saved evidence from her sexual assault was placed in segregation for fifty days. In Illinois, a prison administrator threatened to add a year onto the sentence of a woman who attempted to report repeated sexual assaults. She was then placed in solitary confinement.

In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) became law, ostensibly to address the widespread sexual abuse in the nation’s jails and prisons. Among its recommendations was “the timely and comprehensive investigation of staff sexual misconduct involving rape or other sexual assault on inmates.” However, this has not stopped the widespread practice of utilizing solitary to punish those who speak out. An investigation (PDF) into sexual abuse at Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for Women found that women who report sexual abuse “are routinely placed in segregation by the warden.” Some prison systems have also created new rules to continue discouraging reports of staff sexual assault. At Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, a woman reported that prison officials responded to PREA by creating a rule called “False Reporting to Authorities.”


dlc said...

Again, what has happened to the constitutional rights of the sex offender? The Attorney General should be held in contempt of court for lying with his blown out of proportion statistics.

Kevin said...

If the AG had an ounce of intelligence he would have just let this one guy slip through to save the SORNA regulations for the rest of the offenders in Kansas. Instead, he is either stupid, way too overconfident, or simply wants to show his hatred for sex offenders. By doing so he is risking the retroactive enforcement of SORNA. I'm by no means a supporter of SORNA, but man, talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

Mark said...

Oh, what another shocker story. Right? What goes on behind the tall walls of American penal institutions! The real truth is that the state knows, the courts know, the cops know, the wardens/superintendents know, but the american population does not, and really do not care because the public mind-set is that if have to go prison, you deserve what you get "BEHIND THE IRON." Same old song and the America public with respect to sex offender registration, restrictions, fees, new oppressive laws and so forth.

Mark said...

these type of police stories again are becoming so common place, I have run out of comments. Mr. Fanelli is in for the ride of his life. Especially so since he was one of their own if you know what I mean.

Mark said...

"Sex offenses are repugnant, and the risk of sex offense recidivism
remains high — the Legislature chose to make sex offender registration a
top priority," Grunewald wrote in the appeal. "The choice does not represent a judgment that registration is punitive, only that compliance is a paramount goal."

- That is a flat out lie. And just what the heck else does the state have to buttress their claims but this garbage. THEY HAVE NOTHING ELSE because they know their so-called stats are a lie. What affects me so terribly is that the dumb ass judges buy into it like cat's and a saucer of cream. Why? because they are all scared skinny and really know the truth, and will not admit it. Oh, if you all really knew about the judges of America.

deathklok said...

"n the state's appeal, Assistant Attorney General Christopher Grunewald argued the law wasn't punitive, but rather a law to protect the public."

Two paragraphs later:

"The state's appeal also contends that the judge should not have considered research journals citing studies that confirmed offender registries cause significant employment and housing disadvantages."

WTF!? Without the second paragraph, the first becomes invalid. Does the AG's office get to make up the rule's of the trial and how evidence is presented?

so... if I get this straight. According to their AG's office; Registering Is Not A Punishment, But Being A Registrant Is? Hunh... semantics.