A nonprofit group alleged in a formal complaint filed with the Justice Department on Tuesday that male guards at an Alabama women's prison engaged in pervasive sexual abuse of female inmates for years, according to CNN.
The non-profit group, identified as the Equal Justice Initiative, asked the Justice Department to investigate numerous alleged incidents that occurred between 2009 and 2011 at the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. The Justice Department said that it received the complaint, but declined to make any further comment.
"In interviews with more than 50 women incarcerated at Tutwiler, EJI uncovered evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence," the EJI said in a statement.
"This troubling cycle of abuse and lack of accountability has established a widespread pattern and practice of custodial sexual misconduct," the group's executive director Bryan Stevenson said.
He also contended that the Alabama Department of Corrections under-reported the alleged instances of sexual abuse, which include rapes, and said that the Department failed to respond to complaints in an adequate manner.
Further, The EJI claims that more than "20 Tutwiler employees have been transferred or terminated in the past five years for having illegal sexual contact with prisoners."
"It's an ongoing thing, a daily thing," said Stefanie Hibbett a 31-year-old former Tutwiler inmate. "You see women raped and beaten, and nothing is ever done."
Hibbett claims that she was victimized by sexual assault back in November 2010. She said that she reported the assault to the prison's warden, but charges were never filed against the guard that she said attacked her. Additionally, an Alabama judge dismissed a civil suit Hibbett filed against the guard just last August.
The complaint also stated that many women imprisoned at Tutwiler became pregnant after being raped by guards and gave birth while in custody.
However, CNN said they could not independently confirm the pregnancy statistics as the Alabama attorney general's office referred questions to the Alabama Department of Corrections, which did not immediately return CNN's call for comment.
A 2007 Justice Department report found that Tutwiler maintained the highest rate of sexual assault among prisons for women.
Here, the statistics, if legitimate, weigh pretty heavily against the prison. Yet, the credibility of the victims may hurt their potential chances of winning this case because they do happen to be criminals.
Also, it will be difficult for the EJI and these women to prove that the prison acted improperly or failed to act when it received reports of sexual abuse from these women. Yet, the more inmates that the EJI can find that claim that they were sexually abused without action or with minimal action on the part of the prison the better their chances will be.
What do you think?
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