Male corrections officers at one Alabama prison have repeatedly abused and even raped their female inmates, according to a shocking new report.
According to Alabama civil rights organisation the Equal Justice Initiative, sexual assault at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka is ‘commonplace.’
More than 50 women stepped forward to report abuse, and several even became pregnancy as a result of rape.
The report, which was filed today with the Department of Justice, claims that male guards at the prison engaged in this abhorrent behaviours for years; the study cites incidents which occurred between 2009 and 2011.
EJI said that after interviewing 50 inmates, they found ‘frequent and sever officer-on-inmate sexual violence’ that ran the gamut – from forcing women to perform sex acts in exchange for banned goods, to rape by a male corrections officer while another guard keeps lookout.
EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson said that even when these crimes were confirmed, prison staffers received little punishment.
‘In the last two years, the person who received the harshest sentence was a man who got six months in jail,’ he told msnbc.com.
He said that was punishment for raping a woman who became pregnant. DNA tests later proved the baby was his.
Mr Stevenson said that women at Tutwiler are punished for reporting the crimes, called a liar by the warden, and placed in solitary cells with reduced privileges.
Alabama Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas said in a statement that the issue was a ‘matter of grave concern to me.’
VIOLENCE BEHIND BARS: ONE IN 10 INMATES VICTIM OF SEXUAL CRIMES :
Almost 1 in every 10 former state or local prisoners reported being sexually victimized at least once by an inmate or facility staff member in prison, according to a study released earlier this month by the Justice Department.
The findings, reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the first-ever National Former Prisoners Survey, may indicate a greater problem with sexual victimization than previously thought.
Surveyors found that 9.6 percent of former inmates said they were sexually victimized in jails, prisons and halfway houses.
A somewhat similar survey of still-imprisoned convicts done by the same agency in 2008-09 found that only 4.4 per cent of state and federal inmates said they were sexually victimized.
She continued: ‘From the beginning of my watch, I have made it very clear to my staff that custodial sexual misconduct will not be tolerated and is an especially egregious offense to me.
‘We take every action possible to prevent it from happening, and if it does, we undertake prompt corrective employee discipline and pursue criminal prosecution where applicable.’
Mr Stevenson blamed the Alabama Department of Corrections for under-reporting the sexual crimes.
Former Tutwiler inmate Stefanie Hibbett told CNN: ‘It’s an on-going thing, a daily thing. You see women raped and beaten, and nothing is ever done.’
Hibbett herself claims she was victim to sexual assault. Though she told the warden about the November 2010 assault, nothing was ever done.
A civil suit which was filed last August was later dismissed by a judge.
The U.S. Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment, but said it is reviewing the allegations.
Tutwiler holds more than 700 inmates and in 2007 was identified as the most dangerous women’s prison in the nation, according to the Department of Justice.
It ranks 11th out of 146 prisons nationwide where federal authorities investigated sexual assault, according to EJI.
Mr Stevenson said his non-profit began looking into Tutwiler last year after the civil rights group was hired to represent a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted.