PORTRAITS OF COURAGE

Bryson (formerly Kendell) 1963-2010, was raped by more than 25 other inmates over the course of nine months during his incarceration at an Arkansas state prison. He contracted HIV as a result of the attacks. Although he repeatedly reported the attacks, prison officials failed to provide Mr. Martel, who weighed only 123 pounds at the time, a safe housing environment. He lived in Michigan.

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Click to read Bryson's testimony before NPREC

A Courageous Advocate for Justice (Action Update, October 2010)

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Jailed for an act of civil disobedience in 1974, Tom was locked in an overcrowded cell where he was beaten and raped for 24 hours. The inmates attacked him after guards told them Tom was a child molester and promised special privileges for 'teaching him a lesson.' Despite suffering long-term emotional and mental trauma, Tom later became a leader in the fight against prisoner rape, including serving as President of JDI.

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Still in high school, Chance was 18 years old when he was arrested on drug possession charges. He was repeatedly raped, targeted in part because of his youth. Chance's struggles with homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health show how the devastation of sexual assault continues for years after survivors are released from detention.

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Cecilia, a transgender woman, was raped while held over the weekend in a San Francisco jail. Her story is similar to many transgender women, who are at extreme risk for sexual violence behind bars, as they are usually placed in men's facilities based on their birth gender or genitalia. She now is a nationally recognized activist defending transgender people's right to be free of violence and abuse.

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Transferred with 77 other female inmates from Oregon to a private prison in Arizona, Barrilee immediately noticed the sexualized environment in the facility. Male officers verbally harassed female prisoners, watched them showering, and demanded sexual favors. An officer who claimed to be looking out for her instead raped Barrilee, and she faced retaliation for reporting the attack.

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At the age of 15, Chino was the victim of an attempted rape by an older inmate while incarcerated in a New York adult correctional institution. Today, Chino works as an organizer around issues related to youth incarceration, gang violence and the prison industrial complex.

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After being wrongfully arrested and taken to a Philadelphia lock-up, Erica and her female friend were forced to perform sex acts on one another by a police officer. Although she faced tremendous barriers in her efforts to hold the Philadelphia Police Department accountable, a recent independent investigation substantiated her allegations.

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An immigration official forced Esmeralda (formerly Mayra), a transgender woman, to perform oral sex on him while she was in the custody of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility. The official later resigned and was sentenced to four months in jail. After reporting the abuse, Ms. Soto suffered various forms of retaliation and often feared for her life. Ms. Soto, who came to the U.S. seeking asylum, had also been raped by a male inmate while detained at a jail in her native Mexico. She currently resides in Southern California.

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While in the custody of the Los Angeles County Jail, Frank suffered persistent harassment by corrections officers due to his being openly gay. After a particularly intense incident of verbal abuse, Frank attempted to defend himself by speaking out against the abuse. In response, the offending officer threatened to hurt Frank, and later acted on those threats. Frank was digitally raped and severely brutalized, left naked and bloodied in his cell. He has filed formal complaints and continues to seek justice.
A corrections officer raped Garrett while he was an inmate at a Texas state prison. Today, Mr. Cunningham runs a prison pen pal service and recently testified before the Texas Legislature at a hearing on a state law aimed at addressing sexual violence in Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities.

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Keith was repeatedly raped by a gang member while housed in a dormitory with 150 other inmates at a federal prison in Michigan. Although he had told prison officials of his assailant’s threats, nothing was done to protect Mr. DeBlasio, who contracted HIV as a result of the rapes. He has since become an advocate for prison reform and is executive director of the non-profit AdvoCare, in West Virginia.

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Michelle is a 62 year old, transgender woman who was arrested in late 2006 and placed in the men’s wing of the Los Angeles County Jail. At the time of her arrest, she had very limited mobility. During Michelle’s confinement, she was denied the use of her wheelchair. Other detainees were prohibited from helping Michelle and she was forced to move about without assistance, falling on multiple occasions. One day while in the shower, she was surrounded and threatened with rape by four other inmates. The attempted sexual assault was interrupted when Michelle’s partner entered the shower and was able to fend off the would-be assailants. Michelle has been released and resides in Hollywood, CA.

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While in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Thomas was sexually assaulted by another inmate. After filing a report and being rebuffed by corrections staff, he suffered various forms of retaliation as he attempted to navigate a difficult inmate grievance process. Since being released from custody, he has continued to fight for the rights of California inmates.

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Click to read Thomas’ testimony before the National Review Panel on Prison Rape
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Bryson (formerly Kendell) 1963-2010, was raped by more than 25 other inmates over the course of nine months during his incarceration at an Arkansas state prison. He contracted HIV as a result of the attacks. Although he repeatedly reported the attacks, prison officials failed to provide Mr. Martel, who weighed only 123 pounds at the time, a safe housing environment. He lived in Michigan.

Click to hear Bryson's story

Click to read Bryson's testimony before NPREC

A Courageous Advocate for Justice (Action Update, October 2010)

Click to read other survivor stories