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Report Accuses Federal Prison Staff Of Widespread Sexual Abuse

In 2019, inmate Lauren Reynolds took the risk of identifying the officer who pressured her for sex at a federal women’s prison in Florida. She found out she was one of at least 10 women who had been abused. “There’s a lack of accountability, a secrecy, if nobody gets out there and talks about it,” said Reynolds, whose decision to speak to investigators prompted other women to expose rampant sexual abuse at Federal Correctional Complex Coleman, and expose an epidemic of assaults against female prisoners at the 160,000-inmate Federal Bureau of Prisons. A Senate investigation is disclosing new details of the bureau’s handling of the problem. Interviews with dozens of whistle-blowers, current and former prison officials, and survivors of sexual abuse, produced a report that paints a stark and disturbing picture of a crisis that Justice Department officials have identified as a top priority, the New York Times reports. Among the findings of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee: Bureau employees abused female prisoners in at least 19 of the 29 federal facilities that have held women in the past decade; in at least four prisons, managers failed to apply the federal law intended to detect and reduce sexual assault; and hundreds of sexual abuse charges are among a backlog of 8,000 internal affairs misconduct cases yet to be investigated

A committee analysis of court filings and prison records over the past decade found that male and female inmates had made 5,415 allegations of sexual abuse against employees, of which 586 were substantiated by investigators. The plague of sexual assault at the Bureau of Prisons, an agency hamstrung by labor shortages, budget shortfalls, and mismanagement, had become evident in recent years. The perpetrators have included male employees at every level of the prison hierarchy: warden, pastor, guard, and the warehouse manager who targeted Reynolds as she served the final year of a 12-year sentence. The report criticized the department’s leadership for failing to bring charges against many of those accused of abusing inmates at the now-shuttered women’s unit at Coleman, in rural Central Florida. It takes to task the DOJ Inspector General for declining to investigate six male officers at Coleman accused of abusing prisoners. All six “already had admitted to sexually abusing female prisoners under their supervision,” the report said. “None of these six officers was ever prosecuted.” Under federal law, any sexual contact between a prison employee and a prisoner is illegal, even if it would be considered consensual outside the system.


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