INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A federal report obtained by I-Team 8 says the nation's highest rate of sexual misconduct among inmates and guards was at the Marion County Jail during the last two years.
The report comes from the Justice Department, and it studied more than 600 jails and prisons across the country during 2011 and 2012. The department's Bureau of Justice Statistics interviewed more than 92,000 inmates to compile the report.
It found the rate of "staff sexual misconduct" at the Marion County Jail at 7.7 percent. That's nearly twice the national average, the report found.
Victim advocates called the findings "alarming."
"This report should set off alarm bells in many different areas," said Chris Daly of Washington D.C. based Just Detention International, which campaigns against sexual abuse behind bars. "The fact that this is just being reported now should itself cause alarm."
But, the Marion County Sheriff's Office claims the data inside the report has one major flaw: that it was only compiled on the word of inmates.
"I know of no grievance that was filed by any inmate. I know of no lawsuit that was filed by any inmate in this area. It's a complete stunner," said Marion County Sheriff's Office Attorney Kevin Murray.
Murray says the federally mandated study only focused on the jail's intake facility, which is housed across the street, on the 5th floor and basement of the City-County Building. That facility houses 240 beds that are now occupied by female inmates. But, at the time of the study, Murray says it was only filled by male inmates on work release, medium security detail.
Both male and female special deputies work in that facility, Murray said.
No sexual assaults, sexual abuses or other sex crimes were formally reported from that facility, Murray said.
"And, that's the point of this," he said.
It's the same point made by Ripley County Sheriff Thomas Grills. His jail also appears in the BJS report, listed as having the nation's highest rate of sexual abuse by inmate on inmate. At 7.9 percent, the report shows Ripley County's percentage at a level "more than 4 times the national average."
Sheriff Gills says he believes inmates lied about abuse to get back at guards.
"I have a jail where inmates don't like me. I'm tough on crime. How do you prove that inmates are telling the truth? You're taking their word for it. I haven't gotten a single report on any sexual assaults or sex crimes in he jail in the 7 years I've been Sheriff," Grills told I-Team 8.
"That's a really outdated and unfortunate response," said Daly, of Just Detention. "The Sheriff's Department writing this off is a disservice to the people of Indianapolis. And, it puts taxpayers at risk for further lawsuits."
Grills added that the federal government did not notify him of any allegations made by inmates.
"I found out about it from you," he said.
Murray said the MCSO never received advanced notice of the report's findings either.
"No one from the DOJ has ever talked to us about this issue. Never," he said.
Local victims advocates said the report's claims deserve to be heard.
"I think in any situation it's alarming," said Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Abuse C.E.O. Anita Carpenter. "When we look at the numbers that say that only two percent of all cases are false reports, you'd hope that that is consistent with incarceration. I would hazard a guess that it's probably a little higher because of the population we're dealing with. But, I still think it's something we have to take seriously."
Murray said the MCSO had been in contact with local U.S Marshals and U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett's office. Spokesman Tim Horty there said the office was not involved in the BJS report, but said no charges have been filed based of any allegations contained in it.
"We have ore to find out on this," Murray said. "We're in touch with the U.S. Attorney and others and we would like to have a meeting at a very high level, because we're very unhappy with this.
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