The epidemic of sexual assaults against female federal prisoners has prompted the Justice Department to expand the use of a program to provide early releases to women abused behind bars. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has pressed top officials at the Bureau of Prisons to encourage inmates who have been assaulted by prison employees, and might qualify for the department’s underused compassionate release program, to apply, reports the New York Times. The push comes amid revelations about the extent of abuse of women, and the unwillingness of many prison officials, over decades and at all levels in the system, to address the crisis. On Tuesday, a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee released a report on the scandal. “I was sentenced and put in prison for choices I made — I was not sent to prison to be raped and abused,” said Briane Moore, who was repeatedly assaulted by an official at a women’s prison in West Virginia who threatened to block a transfer to a facility closer to her family if she resisted.
Moore was one of several women to provide firsthand testimony to accompany the release of the report, which was based on interviews with dozens of whistle-blowers, current and former prison officials, and survivors of sexual abuse. Bureau employees abused female prisoners in at least 19 of the 29 federal facilities that have held women over the past decade; in at least four prisons, managers did not invoke the federal law intended to detect and reduce sexual assault; hundreds of sexual abuse charges are among a backlog of 8,000 internal affairs misconduct cases yet to be investigated. An analysis of court filings and prison records found that male and female inmates had made 5,415 allegations of sexual abuse against prison employees, of which 586 were substantiated by investigators. “Our findings are deeply disturbing and demonstrate, in my view, that the BOP is failing systemically to prevent, detect and address sexual abuse of prisoners by its own employees,” said subcommittee chair Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA).