Survivors Tell of Horrors Behind Bars at Federal Hearing on Prisoner Rape in San Francisco

August 15, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO – Inmates across the country live in constant fear of being sexually assaulted, either by fellow prisoners or by corrections officials. For those most at risk – small, young, first-time offenders, gay and transgender individuals, and the mentally ill – life behind bars frequently turns into a nightmare of abuse and humiliation.

On Friday, August 19, 2005, Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) will highlight the stark realities of sexual violence in detention by bringing several survivors to San Francisco to testify at a public hearing held by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. The Commission was established under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003, the first-ever federal legislation addressing prisoner rape.

  • Kendell Spruce was raped by 27 inmates, over a nine-month period, in an Arkansas prison. He contracted HIV as the result of the attacks, and has since developed AIDS.
  • Chance Martin was gang-raped in an Indiana jail at the age of 18, after attending a party where all guests were arrested because one possessed drugs.
  • Hope Hernandez was raped by a corrections official in a Washington D.C. jail shower, while heavily medicated to counteract drug withdrawal symptoms.
  • TJ Parsell was gang-raped as a 17-year-old held in an adult prison in Michigan, after being sentenced to four years for robbing a Photomat with a toy gun. After the initial assault, inmates flipped a coin to determine who would “own” him.

Prisoner rape victims suffer both physical and psychological harm. Gang rapes can be particularly brutal. Rape victims also experience high rates of mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance abuse. Moreover, with HIV rates in U.S. prisons more than three times higher than in American society overall, sexual assault behind bars can amount to an un-adjudicated death sentence.

Prisoner rape also has enormous negative consequences for society at large. More than 2.1 million people are incarcerated at any given time in the U.S. Of those inmates, 95 percent are eventually released. Upon their release, many survivors of prisoner rape return to their communities with severe emotional scars, deadly diseases, learned violent behavior and increasingly expensive medical and psychological healthcare needs.

The full-day prisoner rape hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. on August 19, 2005, at the Ceremonial Courtroom of the San Francisco Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate Avenue. All survivors will be available for interviews by appointment. Please contact Andrea Cavanaugh at 213-384-1400, ext 106, or 805-889-9590 (cell) for more information.