Inspector General Report on Guard Abuse of Federal Inmates

The Inspector General has released a report (available here, pdf) on its investigation into sexual misconduct of inmates by guards and prison staff at federal prisons over the past 8 years.

The report finds that inmate accusations have more than doubled. Allegations were made at 92 of the nation's 93 federal prison sites. More details:

Of the 90 staff members prosecuted for sexual abuse of inmates, nearly 40 percent were also convicted of other crimes, authorities said.

Investigators underscored the damaging effect such episodes can have on the overall security within a prison. One operations officer abandoned his post several times to have sex with a female inmate. Another manager scrubbed the prison database to remove unflattering information about a prisoner and entered a phony request that allowed the inmate to transfer from a high-security facility to a less secure one.


The guards' actions are clearly illegal:

It is a crime for a prison staff member to engage in any sexual activity with an inmate, and consent by the inmate does not matter under the law because of the imbalance of power in the relationship.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 mandates that prison officials make prevention of sexual abuse in prisons, jails and cellblocks a top priority. The Federal Bureau of Prisons manages 115 facilities and houses 171,000 inmates.

What other sexual assault cases would result in these minimal penalties?

Since a change in the law in 2006, the percentage of cases that assistant U.S. attorneys accepted for prosecution has risen by more than 12 percent. In the cases in which criminal charges were filed, 83 out of 90 resulted in convictions. The vast majority of the penalties, however, resulted in sentences of less than one year of prison time under both the older and newer laws. (my emphasis).

And claims against women guards are rising at at a rate higher than their representative numbers in the prison work force.

What does the BOP have to say about it?

Harley G. Lappin, director of the Bureau of Prisons, pointed out in a letter that prison officials attribute the rise in allegations "to our efforts to educate and encourage reporting of these incidents" by inmates and other prison staff members.

In other words, sexually abusing inmates has always been business as usual, the BOP is now just encouraging it to be reported?

What does the Inspector General recommend?

Fine urged the Justice Department, the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service to step up their outreach to prosecutors and to reconsider policies in some prison facilities that isolate inmates or transfer them after they raise allegations of sexual misconduct by corrections officers and other members of the prison staff.

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  • Display: Sort:
    This needs to come to the light (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Lora on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 08:04:47 AM EST
    What other sexual assault cases would result in these minimal penalties?

    Sadly, quite a few.

    In other words, sexually abusing inmates has always been business as usual, the BOP is now just encouraging it to be reported?


    I've said it before:  Unless and until we take significant steps to prevent sexual violence and/or abuse against our most vulnerable citizens - prisoners being one of the most vulnerable groups - we are just not serious about stopping sexual violence in this country.

    And we are all... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by kdog on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 08:59:48 AM EST
    accessories...every single taxpayer, every single voter.


    I think the main problem is the attitudes (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Chuck0 on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 09:34:59 AM EST
    of the public in general. Too many in this country feel that whatever happens to inmates in prison is deserved. That's their "extra" punishment. The goes for inmate on inmate rape or sexual abuse by staff. So long as this attitude persists, politicians won't do anything about it.

    I'm not sure (none / 0) (#4)
    by JamesTX on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 10:06:52 AM EST
    when and where this attitude about prison rape got started, but it is very real. During the conservative authoritarian binge of the 80s and 90s, threatening TV criminals with rape in prison was a stock winner on those TV shows. It has become a standard joke, and it represents the fundamental break we have seen with basic ethical principles about how we treat other human beings.

    The attitude is very irrational in view of the attitudes that have developed during the same period about sex crime. Sex crime is seen as being the most harmful and damaging crime, deserving of the most severe penalties, even death. So it doesn't make much sense to view rape of prisoners as being perfectly acceptable, while seeing rape, or even inappropriate advances, as deserving the harshest punishments available.

    This is another bizarre example of how the conservative revolution has created extremely irrational attitudes.


    You are spot on. (5.00 / 0) (#5)
    by Chuck0 on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 10:34:32 AM EST
    How many times have seen a TV where the cop threatens the suspect with putting him cell "Bubba," the big badass deviant criminal. I've even seen it on "Special Victims Unit," which about sex crimes. Jeez.

    denominator? (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 06:08:06 PM EST
    90 staff members were "prosecuted" (strange choice of word; doesn't say how many were actually convicted)  out of how many staff members in federal prisons working how many days over an eight year period?  Is this a frequent or rare event?  You wouldn't know it from this.