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DOJ: Ending Sex Abuse In Federal Prisons Is 'Urgent, Urgent Work'

Sexual abuse in federal prisons must be rooted out, the Justice Department’s second-highest-official told prison wardens gathered for their first nationwide training since the disclosure that a toxic, permissive culture at a California prison allowed abuse to run rampant. The Associated Press was admitted to the training Tuesday for wardens of the 122 federal prisons, the first since AP reported deep flaws within the federal Bureau of Prisons, the Justice Department’s largest law enforcement agency. Teams of experts and officials will soon be fanning out to women’s prisons to follow up on on reforms the agency adopted last fall, and they’ll speak to both staff and incarcerated people, said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a speech at the training facility outside Denver.


At the training, wardens sat at conference tables dotted with quotes about wellness and leadership from Malcolm X and Mahatma Gandhi. It was the first gathering of its kind in five years. “This is urgent, urgent work,” Monaco told AP. “It’s incumbent upon us as leaders to call that out and make those changes and really be vigilant about it.” Any sexual activity between a prison worker and an inmate is illegal. Correctional employees have substantial power over inmates, and there is no scenario in which an inmate can give consent. At California’s Dublin prison, a culture of predatory employees was fueled by cover-ups that kept their misconduct out of the public eye for years. The prison’s former warden was convicted of molesting inmates and forcing them to pose naked in their cells. He was one of several employees charged with sexual abuse of inmates. Its chaplain was also convicted. Criminal prosecutions in other sexual abuse cases are expected to continue. Monaco told U.S. Attorneys last week to prioritize cases of sexual abuse allegations against correctional staffers. “But most importantly, we’ve got to do all of the work to prevent that from happening in the first place,” she said. Fundamental change in the Bureau of Prisons culture is part of a new mission statement announced Tuesday by the bureau’s new director, Colette Peters.

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