Prison staff are rarely held accountable for sexual misconduct

Jail and prison staff rarely face legal consequences for sexual assault, according to the new data was published by the Office for Judicial Statistics (BJS) of the Ministry of Justice.

BJS released detailed data this week on more than 2,500 proven incidents of sexual assault in US prisons and jails between 2016 and 2018. The data clearly shows how federal, state and local officials have neglected their constitutional duty to protect inmates from sexual assault, despite federal laws aimed at creating a zero-tolerance policy for prison rape.

For example, the report found that perpetrators of sexual abuse of staff were convicted, fined, fined or pleaded guilty in only 20 percent of prison incidents, and only a paltry 6 percent of proven prison incidents.

And less than half of that staff lost their jobs. “Sexual misconduct by staff led to the dismissal, termination or non-renewal of the perpetrator’s employment contract in 44 percent of incidents,” the report said. “Staff perpetrators were reprimanded or disciplined after 43 percent of sexual harassment incidents.”

“This report lifts the curtain on the continued failure of US prisons to hold their staff accountable for sexual abuse,” said Linda McFarlane, executive director of Just Detention International. “Prison and prison staff sexually abuse people in their care and get away with it – even when an investigation confirms they did it. This is a textbook example of impunity and it is unacceptable.”

As far as federal law is concerned, there is no such thing as consensual sex between a corrections officer and a person in prison. It’s always sexual assault. The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 was intended to establish a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse in US prisons.

However, PREA is largely toothless and a bad joke in many prisons. In December, a former PREA compliance officer at FCI Dublin, a federal women’s prison in California, was convicted of sexually abusing female inmates.

The BJS report also found that half of the incidents between inmates and staff against inmates occurred in areas that were not under video surveillance.

The BJS report comes after December Senate investigation which found that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had failed to implement the PREA, and that long delays in investigating complaints had led to a backlog of more than 8,000 Internal Affairs cases. The inquiry, conducted by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), concluded that these management failures “allowed serious, repeated sexual abuse in at least four facilities to go undetected.”

“The BOP’s internal affairs practices failed to hold employees accountable, and as a result, more admitted sex offenders were not prosecuted,” the PSI report states. “Furthermore, for a decade, the BOP has failed to respond to this abuse or implement agency-wide reforms.”

A PSI investigation found that BOP employees sexually assaulted female inmates in at least two-thirds of federal women’s prisons over the past decade.

In response to the revelations, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D–Ga.) co-sponsored the Federal Independent Oversight Act. This account would, among other thingsestablish an independent commission to investigate complaints received from prison staff, prisoners or their loved ones.

Some fixes have already been made. Late last year, President Joe Biden he signed the Law on Prison Camera Reform into law, which will require the BOP to fix its broken surveillance camera systems and improve their coverage.

However, these bills only affect the federal prison system. Prison rape scandals have erupted in many state prison systems, such as Florida, New Jerseyand Alabama.

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