Prisons Bureau Settles With Female Inmates
The San Francisco Chronicle, March 3, 1998
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has agreed to make sweeping changes in its sexual assault training and policies as part of a settlement with three female inmates who say they were sexually assaulted at a federal facility in Dublin.
The settlement, which is expected to be announced today, is between the bureau and three women who were attacked in a wing of the all-male Federal Detention Center, inmate lawyer Geri Lynn Green said.
“This settlement begins to address the fact there exists no safe and secure means of reporting sexual abuse,” Green said. “These attacks and resulting retaliation occurred because we have a prison system accountable to no one.”
Under the agreement, the bureau promised to no longer house women in the center’s special housing unit, where those three inmates were housed for disciplinary reasons in 1995.
The agreement affects the entire 115,000-inmate Bureau of Prisons with several key provisions:
— The bureau will set up a training program for new hires and existing staff on sexual assaults, misconduct and harassment.
— Bureau inmates will be given literature on reporting sexual assaults and harassment.
— In cases involving sexual misconduct by a staff member, the bureau will ensure there is a confidential system permitting an inmate to come forward and that all sexual activity between bureau staff and inmates is expressly illegal.
The settlement also requires the bureau to develop procedures that medical and mental health staff are to follow in cases of sexual misconduct involving staff members.
Robin Lucas, a 32-year-old woman who was one of the three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that the assaults on her included a Sept. 22, 1995, incident in which her cell door was unlocked and then three men entered and handcuffed and sodomized her.
Lucas, who served 30 months of a 33-month sentence for credit card conspiracy, said the men were retaliating because she had signed a statement describing an earlier attack on her involving a male inmate.
“It seemed like it was a schoolboy game to them to get in there and turn me around by having sex with me,” said Lucas, who is a lesbian and lives now in Marin County.
Lucas, who works in a beauty salon, said she hoped the settlement helps all women incarcerated in the federal system.
“I hope the government will do its job,” she said. “They will never be able to pay me back for what I went through. I want people to be aware of what is going on in the prisons.”
The other two women inmates named in the case also alleged they were sexually molested in the middle of the night by men who entered their cells with the help of a guard, the women’s lawyers said. Both those women are still serving their sentences and were unavailable for comment.
Michael Bien, one of the inmates’ lawyers, said he found “the greatest disappointment in the case to be the failure of the U.S. attorney in the Northern District (Michael Yamaguchi) to bring criminal charges against the officers and male prisoners who were identified at great personal risk by our clients.”
“In our clients’ case, a correctional officer facilitated the attacks — opening the women’s cell doors for the attackers,” Bien said. “The guard later quit, but to my knowledge he was never disciplined or charged.”
The U.S. attorney’s office defended its decision.
“The victims’ allegations were taken very seriously by this office and the investigative agencies,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bert Glenn, who handles civil rights cases for his office. “There was a very thorough investigation by this office. We have a high burden of proof in criminal prosecutions, and we did not feel we had sufficient evidence” to make the case.