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Rampant sexual abuse of women inmates at Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison has been under investigation for at least 18 years! The US Department of Justice and Alabama’s Department of Corrections know prison staff are committing these violent crimes and worse. So why hasn’t somebody stopped them?
Not only are women at Tutwiler subject to repeated rapes, they are consistently assaulted in other ways - watched while showering, touched inappropriately and verbally abused. For years their complaints have been met with denial and retaliation. The DOJ investigation found that 36% of the prison’s staff members participated in some form of sexual abuse.
Adding to the indecency of these crimes is the reality that they are committed against incarcerated women, held in confinement and unable to escape abuse from those charged with their protection.
It is unconscionable for the state DOC and the DOJ to allow even one more woman to be sexually abused while this investigation continues. DOJ is finally threatening Governor Robert Bentley with a lawsuit, but why weren’t all guilty prison staff fired and criminally prosecuted years ago?
Tell DOJ to Demand Alabama fire and arrest all prison staff guilty of sexual abuse - NOW!
We, the undersigned, say there should be zero tolerance for sexual abuse and harassment of women prisoners. And someone should have put a stop to these crimes at Tutwiler long ago.
DOJ’s January, 2014 report states that officials at Tutwiler “have been on notice for over eighteen years of the risks to women prisoners and, for over eighteen years, have chosen to ignore them.”
It has been nearly two years since the Equal Justice Initiative publicized allegations of abuse at Tutwiler, and Alabama DOC’s Kim Thomas responded by claiming that such misconduct was “not tolerated.”
But DOJ’s investigation found that Alabama, instead, has systematically ignored claims of abuse and harassment, enabling the misconduct to continue. Last August Thomas again shirked responsibility by claiming that conditions at Tutwiler were improving, claiming new strategies were taking care of the problem - including recruitment of female staffers. News reports now say that Thomas‘s description of Tutwiler as “a safer and healthier facility,” are contradicted by the DOJ report.
It should be kept in mind that these crimes deal with sexual abuse of women virtually held hostage - women who are being abused by those charged with their protection. The DOJ report found that in addition to enduring all forms of sexual assaults, the women at Tutwiler were hesitant to report the systemic abuse because realistic fears of retaliation. Those who did speak up “were placed in segregation with limited or no access to a telephone, visitors, or programs for an extended time period,” and “verbally harassed” by staff members.
The DOJ says it’s now expanding its investigation to look into other issues of abuse and will consider a lawsuit if the state doesn’t cooperate with its recommended reforms. But the victims of rape and other sexual abuse at Tutwiler need relief now. They’ve already put up with far too much for far too long.
A May 2013 report in Mother Jones Magazines ranks Julia Tutwiler as one of the ten worst prisons in the United States, and apparently it’s going to take pressure from outside the state to change this.
We request immediate removal and prosecution of all staff guilty of sexual abuse and suspension and investigation of others suspected of these crimes. Tutwiler must do whatever it takes to end these atrocities committed against women inmates, and the DOJ must not delay effective intervention any longer.
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