JDI IN THE NEWS - 2003

Tom Beyerlein, Group Alleges Inmate Sex Abuse; Problem Routine at Marysville, Report Says, Dayton Daily News, December 10, 2003.

COLUMBUS -- A national human rights group Wednesday said it has "extensive and credible evidence" that the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville has "an environment consistently conducive to sexual abuse" of inmates by guards.

Several lawmakers called upon Gov. Bob Taft and prison officials to investigate allegations by Los Angeles-based Stop Prisoner Rape, claiming Marysville prison staffers routinely engage in sexual misconduct from verbal abuse to rape. Many prisoners don't report the abuse, fearing reprisals, and those who do are placed in solitary confinement, a form of protective custody they find punitive, according to the group's report. Other Ohio prisons with female convicts have similar problems, the report said.

"If there is truth in these allegations, there are going to have to be some sweeping changes made at that prison," said Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati, chairman of the legislature's watchdog Correctional Institution Inspection Committee.

Sen. Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown, said he will ask the Justice Department to investigate the prisons if the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction doesn't do a thorough investigation.

Department Director Reginald Wilkinson said the report gives an "extremely exaggerated" view of sexual misconduct by prison staff. "We certainly don't tolerate any sexual assaults inside our prisons," he said. "We've fired many staff over the years for having sexual relationships with inmates."

He said the department will release in February a 10-point plan to deal more effectively with sexual abuse in the prisons.

Stop Prisoner Rape's report was based on interviews with former staff members and former inmates, as well as news reports. Among its findings:

  • Former inmates said staffers routinely traded makeup, perfume and fast food for sex. Ex-staffers said consensual sexual relationships between staff and inmates are common, even though it's a felony for prison workers to have sex, consensual or otherwise, with inmates.
  • Thirty-three prison employees were fired last year for sexual misconduct.
  • Ex-staffers said guards looked the other way when their colleagues engaged in sexual misconduct, and administrators took no action when misconduct was reported to them.

"I've seen C.O.s (corrections officers) walking down the line with their arm around inmates," former Marysville guard Mike Coffey of Champaign County said.

At a news conference, Heather Parker of Amnesty International called on prisons to adopt a "bill of human rights for women in prison," including independent investigation of claims, freedom from reprisals and the right to be guarded only by females.