Brent Wistrom, Elusive Evidence in Rape Cases; Allred Investigation Not Accurate, ACLU Says,
Times Record News, February 27, 2004.
The American Civil Liberties Union Thursday disputed an internal prison
investigation that prompted a Wichita County grand jury to no-bill 49
Allred Unit inmates accused of raping and prostituting another inmate.
The organization represents Roderick Keith Johnson in a widely
publicized federal civil lawsuit. The group called a 70-page Texas
Department of Criminal Justice report "flawed" and "a whitewash intended
as a cover-up."
"It was an extremely sloppy investigation," said Kara Gotsch, a
spokeswoman for the ACLU's National Prison Project in Washington.
The TDCJ report followed Johnson's allegations that he was traded as an
unwilling sex slave among numerous prison gangs and guards ignored his
pleas for transfer to a safer area.
The ACLU said Johnson never identified the 49 inmates identified in the
report and was never asked to testify or verify the suspects.
Investigators have said suspects' names came from interviews with
Johnson, but the ACLU said because most were identified by nicknames,
not all of the suspects were those Johnson accused.
The report claims Johnson had consensual sex with other inmates and that
his allegations were part of a scheme to make money.
Attempts to contact TDJC Investigator Tanya Perry Thursday were
In a previous article, Perry said: "We looked at everything, we left no
stone unturned and there was nothing to support that this allegation
Allred Unit Warden Danny Horton was unavailable for comment Thursday.
In the report, obtained by the Times Record News, prison officials
identified numerous prison gangs and reported on the workings of
prostitution among gangs.
"If (Johnson) belonged to the Gangster Disciples, he would not have been
sold to the highest bidder, but he would have been used by all members
within that group," a security threat group officer reported.
He said if Johnson "would have been prostituted, that he would have been
sold to non Gangster Disciple members for the highest price."
Instead, the officer reported, Johnson "was having sex with various
ethnic groups in open areas that could have been interpreted as a sign
of disrespect between the various groups."
"Gangs control life in the Allred Unit," Margaret Winter, associate
director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, said in a press release.
"As a gay man, Mr. Johnson's only hope of surviving his incarceration
was to submit to sexual slavery."
In interviews, more than 100 inmates, guards and investigators said
Johnson had consensual sex with the other prisoners.
But many of the inmates were identified as being members of the scores
of prison gangs identified in the report, a fact prisoner advocacy
groups say can result in false testimony because of fear of retaliation.
"They have an understanding of the culture and what's happening, but
they're not doing anything to stop it," Gotsch said. "That's what's mind
Producing witnesses and evidence to convict someone of rape is often
difficult, if not impossible, said Lara Stemple, executive director of
the Los Angeles-based organization Stop Prisoner Rape.
"It's no less of a problem when it occurs behind bars," she said. "It
can often come down to one person's words versus another's ... it does
change in a prison context. There is a lot of fear in the prison system
about being a narc or a rat."
Stemple said issues of consent also become blurry in cases of
"protective pairing," a system where weaker prisoners perform sex acts
in return for protection.
"It's still a very coercive situation and the true element of consent is
clearly missing," she said.
The prison environment also plays a role.
"I think society has learned that the rape of women is not acceptable,"
she said. "But the rape of men is not something we should care about ...
and it's even thought of as funny."
It's especially difficult for gay men in prison, she said.
"The homophobia that's present within some prison facilities definitely
leads to callousness toward the rape of gay men," she said. "They think
that because they're gay they asked for it. We've heard reports that
screams in the night literally go unanswered."