Former Prison Employees Blow Whistle on Sexual Abuse of Female Inmates in Ohio

December 10, 2003

COLUMBUS, OH - A report released today asserts that three whistleblowers are speaking out about the sexual abuse of inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW). The inmates face a climate of frequent sexual abuse and are routinely placed in solitary confinement for reporting it, according to the former ORW employees quoted in a report released today by the human rights group Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR).

The report, "The Sexual Abuse of Female Inmates in Ohio," also alleges that ORW corrections staff engage in sexual misconduct with virtual impunity. In most cases, the report notes, staff accused of sexual misconduct are simply transferred to different positions or quietly shown the door, despite the fact that such an abuse is a felony in Ohio.

"It's unprecedented to hear from multiple whistleblowers like this, and what they've told us is alarming," said Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape. "We hope this report will lead to greater scrutiny of the conditions for women behind bars in Ohio, and a move toward much needed reform."

In the report, former ORW program coordinator Tim Daniell, former ORW corrections officer Mike Coffey, and former ORW health care administrator Traci Douglass-Coffey testify that a persistent climate of sexual abuse exists at ORW. The report details problematic incidents including violent encounters, coerced sexual activity, the trading of sex for favors, and relationships that could be characterized as "consensual," if it were not for the severe power imbalance between inmates and staff.

The report also claims that ORW officials acknowledge the practice of isolating women who report abuse and argue that it protects inmates. In contrast, the former staff members testify in the report that isolation is used to intimidate and harass inmates who speak out. "Placing a woman who reports sexual abuse in solitary confinement is counterproductive and abusive," Stemple said. "This policy punishes the victim, emboldens perpetrators, and makes it much easier for abuse to flourish."

The complete text of the report is available here.

Speaking at today's press conference to release SPR's report are:

  • Lara Stemple, Stop Prisoner Rape
  • Ohio Senator Robert Hagan
  • Staci Kitchen, Ohio Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Melanie GiaMaria, Women's Re-Entry Resource Network
  • Heather Parker, Amnesty International USA

Stop Prisoner Rape is a national nonprofit organization that works to end sexual violence against men, women, and youth in all forms of detention.