On February 23rd, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) settled a lawsuit brought by a former nurse at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) named Michelle Pierce, who claimed she had been fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment and abuse by her colleagues. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Pierce’s disturbing story is one of several to have come out in the wake of Idaho’s decision to take back control of the facility last year. Under CCA’s watch, ICC was nicknamed “gladiator school” for its high levels of violence. When Idaho began the process of transitioning the facility back to the state last year, investigators and three whistleblowers revealed that IDOC employees had potentially manipulated prisoner medical records to cover up neglect and mismanagement that took place while it was still under CCA’s control. Pierce’s story provides an additional perspective on the atmosphere permitted, and sometimes encouraged, by CCA leadership within ICC.
Pierce was hired as a Licensed Practical Nurse at ICC in 2012 when CCA was running the facility. Her primary job was to run the medication cart, conducting rounds in the housing units to distribute prescriptions to prisoners. Guards were required to accompany her on those rounds as a safety measure.
On the night of September 13, 2012, Pierce went into a housing unit to collect “kites,” which are forms that prisoners fill out when they want to see medical staff or report a health issue. Pierce encountered three male CO’s in the unit: Officers Spurgess, Vasquez and Omerevich. Continue reading
With the filing of two new lawsuits in New Mexico this week, Dr. Mark E. Walden stands accused of sexually assaulting scores of prisoners while working for inmate healthcare contractor Corizon Health Services inside two different GEO Group for-profit prisons in the state.
Filed on February 13th and 16th, the lawsuits are the sixth and seventh to be brought against Dr. Walden in the past three years, and raise the total number of Walden’s alleged victims to around 50.
Walden is accused of fondling prisoners’ genitals and conducting superfluous, aggressive rectal exams for ailments like tooth aches and toe fungus. Walden has denied any and all wrongdoing, and Corizon and GEO Group have so far refused to speak with the press on these matters.
The two most recent lawsuits represent a total of seven inmates, and name Walden, Corizon, GEO Group and New Mexico prison and healthcare officials as defendants. Plaintiffs have filed under their initials to avoid harassment and retaliation.
According to one lawsuit, Walden used a screen to keep other staff from looking in and seeing what he was doing. A plaintiff known only as “S.W.” claims he was digitally penetrated by Walden on three separate occasions. When S.W. asked why Walden was conducting these exams, the doctor responded that he was “milking his prostate” and made other nonsensical medical claims. Continue reading
In a white male supremacist society, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) prisoners face the compounded misery of discrimination based on their race, income, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.
They are three times more likely to be assaulted behind bars than other prisoners, and are grossly overrepresented in our prisons — particularly our disgraceful juvenile detention centers. While only 4-8% of youth identify as LGBTQ on the outside, 13-15% of prisoners in juvenile prisons are LGBTQ.
In some jails, administrators willfully place transgender inmates with the wrong gender population — for instance, placing a transgender woman in a male population. In California, transgender women in men’s prisons were found to be 13 times more likely to be assaulted than other prisoners. Continue reading
The age of consent in the state of Louisiana is 17. The girl was 14 at the time of the incident. This is textbook statutory rape.
Read the whole report if you can stomach it. But I think this quote from a local attorney and children’s advocate sums up the issue perfectly:
“To say that a 14-year-old mentally and emotionally distressed girl with a history of having been abused and neglected as a child should be found at fault for consenting to be raped by a male guard while in confinement at the hands of my local government, which is charged with the responsibility of keeping her safe, not only sets the cause of children’s advocacy back a hundred years, but I believe the parish government commits ‘documentary’ sexual assault against the child by taking this position in a public record.”
In Texas, a lawsuit filed against Corrections Corporation of America sheds another sliver of light on the notorious culture of violence at private prisons.
An unnamed prisoner alleges he and over 50 others were violently assaulted during a hazing tradition known as ‘ass to the glass,’ which involves “forcibly stripping an individual, turning him upside down and slamming his buttocks against the glass of a guard’s station.” Continue reading
In April, The Bakersfield Californian reported that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) signed a contract with private prison company GEO Group to re-open and operate a women’s facility in Mcfarland, California.
GEO Group will own and operate the 260-bed facility and is expected to make around $9 million per year at full occupancy. Unfortunately, due to the lack of public access to private prison contracts, most of the details are unknown.
This week, a group of ten female prisoners from the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and the California Institution for Women (CIW) have written an open letter calling on “California state legislators to direct CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO and implement existing release programs instead of opening a new prison!”
The women write that they are being “shuffled around without regard for our well-being or our human rights” due to overcrowding. They note that CCWF’s facility is currently operating at 185% capacity, and as a result, prisoners’ access to critical services such as food and healthcare have declined.
They are concerned, however, that this move by the state will not positively impact its mass incarceration problem, and women transferred to GEO Group’s new facility might not see their treatment improve.