Officials at Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison have been accused of allowing “rampant” sexual abuse of approximately 900 female inmates by over one-third of the 99 male officers on staff, reports ABC News.
Inmates were “universally in fear for their safety” and were forced to have sex in exchange for sanitary supplies.
“We conclude that the state of Alabama violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to protect women prisoners at Tutwiler [Prison] from harm due to sexual abuse and harassment from correctional staff,” the Justice Department wrote in a letter to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.
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As part of the alleged abuses, male officers openly watched women shower or use the toilet, staff helped organize a “strip show,” prisoners received a constant barrage of sexually offensive language, and prisoners who reported improper conduct were punished, according to the department.
Perhaps most disturbing, investigators concluded the Alabama Department of Corrections and officials at Tutwiler have been “well aware of the multitude of structural problems that allow this abuse and harassment to continue unabated.”
“Officials have been on notice for over eighteen years of the risks to women prisoners and, for over eighteen years, have chosen to ignore them,” the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels, said in the letter. In that time, inmates have been raped, sodomized and fondled by prison staff, yet officials “remain deliberately indifferent to the serious and significant need to protect women prisoners.”
The sexual abuse at Tutwiler allegedly stretches back to 1942.
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas said that she’s aware of the abuse of power at Tutweiler but does not believe the facility is operating in a “deliberately indifferent or unconstitutional manner.”