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
The complete text of the report is available
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
Rape is a national nonprofit organization that works to end sexual
violence against men, women, and youth in all forms of detention.