Julie Carr Smyth and Scott Hiaasen, Group Claims Abuse of Women Prisoners, Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 11, 2003.
Columbus - Women in Ohio prisons are being sexually attacked, abused and
harassed with alarming regularity, a national prisoner-rights group
The Los Angeles-based Stop Prisoner Rape issued a 15-page report - based
largely on uncorroborated testimonials of three former employees of the
Ohio Reformatory for Women - alleging a cycle in which sex acts from
"forced violent encounters to trading sex for favors" are common and
State prisons director Reginald Wilkinson admitted sexual misconduct
occurs at Marysville, but said he "can't disagree enough" with the
picture painted by the anti-rape group.
"There is no pattern of abuse or neglect," he said. "Whenever these
incidents occur and we become aware of them, they are reported for
prosecution 100 percent of the time." He said prosecutors determine what
charges to bring after an Ohio State Highway Patrol investigation.
But Stop Prisoner Rape's executive director Lara Stemple said that many
accused prison employees walk away uncharged, and that "a climate of
fear" prevents women who have been abused or attacked from coming
forward. It is prison policy for victims who report such crimes to be
sent to isolation, or "the hole," while the incident is investigated.
"This is a disgusting place," Stemple said. "It is filthy. The walls are
smeared with blood and feces, there is no access to the outside. This is
incredibly psychologically difficult to endure, particularly in the
aftermath of abuse."
Wilkinson acknowledged the practice is not ideal, but said inmates are
placed in isolation for their safety.
He said the prisons department is working on a plan to encourage better
reporting of such incidents in light of federal prison-reform
legislation passed by Congress this year. The law will pay for a survey
of the nation's prisons to determine the extent of prison rapes.
Since 2000, 12 corrections officers have resigned or been fired over
allegations of sexual misconduct with inmates at the state's three
prisons for women - the reformatory, the Franklin Pre-Release Center in
Columbus, and the Northeast Pre-Release Center in Cleveland.
Another officer at the Franklin Pre-Release Center is under
investigation for allegedly impregnating a 26-year-old inmate there.
Cuyahoga County prosecutors indicted three Northeast officers over the
past two years on sexual-assault charges, but all three were cleared of
wrongdoing after they went to trial.