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Friday, June 12, 2009

Sexual Abuse Of Inmates Distressingly Common

The Denver Post

A female inmate awarded $1.3 million because she was sexually assaulted by a prison guard was victimized during a period in which 197 reports of sexual misconduct were made against state prison staff.

Of the complaints logged between 2005 and 2007, 62 cases were substantiated and resulted in firings, Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said Thursday.

The DOC's inspector general turned over the complaints to local prosecutors.

One, the 2006 case involving former prison Sgt. Leshawn Terrell, was an example of "horrific violence" that moved U.S. Circuit Judge David Ebel to lambaste the way the department handles sexual assault by its employees in his decision to award $1.3 million to the inmate.

Ebel said the sexual abuse of inmates "remains distressingly common in Colorado prisons."

"Further, the court received evidence that it is not uncommon for CDOC to have to dismiss prison staff at the Denver complex because of sexual misconduct," he wrote.

The prisoner said Terrell coerced her into performing sex acts for five months. When she finally refused him, she says, he raped her.

In addition to the money Terrell must pay the victim, the DOC settled its case with her with a $250,000 payment.

Corrections officials say they will use the lawsuit in employee training.

Employees who work with prisoners undergo extensive background checks, including an evaluation of their integrity and close relationships, Sanguinetti said. They also receive ongoing training.

"One of the things I guarantee will happen because of this case as we talk to our staff in our refresher trainings is that they can be liable personally if they step outside the lines of our policies and procedures," she said. "Quite frankly, we hope it does set an example for people in these positions, not just in Colorado but across the country."

As part of the settlement, the DOC installed cameras in the kitchen of the Denver Women's Correctional Facility, where the assaults occurred, said the woman's attorney, Mari Newman.

Treated as "playthings"

"This is an extraordinarily important opinion which will have a major ripple effect on prisons Colorado and nationwide," Newman said. "This was a case in which a guard was essentially treating female inmates, including my client, as playthings for his own sexual gratification."

The Denver Post is withholding the prisoner's name because she is a victim of sexual assault. She is serving time on burglary, drug and escape charges and is eligible for parole in October, records show.

Terrell, 38, could not be reached for comment Thursday. He resigned from the Corrections Department in 2007 and did not respond to the lawsuit.

Court records say that on Mother's Day 2006, Terrell approached the inmate during her shift in the prison kitchen and told her that in exchange for sex, he would "take care of her."

After the first encounter, Terrell expected her to perform sex acts with him almost every shift, the documents say.

In October 2006, the woman refused him. Terrell got angry, raped the prisoner and left her bleeding on the floor of the bakery cooler, court records show.

"For nearly two years following the rape, (she) suffered pain and bleeding when she defecated," Ebel wrote in his decision, handed down Wednesday. "She repeatedly attempted to get help. . . . Rather than doing an examination, the (DOC) medical staff told (her) to use stool softeners, Milk of Magnesia, or hemorrhoid cream."

The inmate had surgery for her injuries after she filed her lawsuit.


Anonymous said...

Why are these prison employees not prosecuted as sex offenders and imprisoned? Were they average citizens who offended in the private sector, they would be prosecuted, imprisoned, and tagged as sex offenders for life. What's the difference? Why is it okay for them? Bunk!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is a great article but why hasnt many of the ongoing cases been setteled and the inmate victims paid. The DOC needs to tell all the truth in all the cases. Why does the Attorney General Suther spend so much money trying to defend the guilty rapers?? Yes why arent those guilty prosecuted as the sex offenders they are. djw

Anonymous said...

I was incarcerated for almost ten years. DOC constantly closed its eyes to staff sexual abuse, because it was too busy giving inmates sexual misconduct write-ups for hair-braiding and back rubs. Guess they have their priorities!

Anonymous said...

60 days in jail??!!?!? Why isn't this guard serving two-years to life like others who have sentenced for lesser "sexual" assault convictions? It only takes an accusation by a woman that she said "no" several weeks or months ago and her husband/boyfriend/father of her child or children had sex with her anyway for a man to be accused of sexual assault. No bruises, no red marks on her skin, no evidence of any sort -- just her word against his -- and he can be charged with sexual assault in Colorado. No man is this state is safe when the police will arrest on a charge like that!

This state is out of control! Most felony convictions for "sexual" assault -- even unproven, undocumented sexual assault charges where a defendant accepts a plea bargain -- end with a sentence of two to life! Then the inmate can't get into the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) for a year or more; the current waiting list for Phase I is about four years. Then the inmate must complete Phase II of the SOTP before he is eligible for parole. Typically, the inmate will spend about 10 years in prison before the Parole Board turns him down for the first time on a "two to life" sentence. An inmate will have to meet the Parole Board several times before he'll be released (if he is EVER released) to face lifetime registration and supervision as a sex offender! And this guard, in a position of trust, raped a female inmate and got a MISDEMEANOR conviction and a 60-day sentence!?! This is an outrage and another example of Colorado's out-of-control "justice" system. This is sick!!

Anonymous said...