In Florida, as well as in every other state, it is an unlawful civil rights violation for guards or staff to engage in sexual relations with prisoners. In this dynamic, no sexual encounter can be considered consensual because prisoners cannot legally consent to sex with someone who has authority over them. It’s further understood that refusal invites risk of retaliation.
Unfortunately, the reality is sexual assaults occur far too often in prisons. Some callously view it as “part of the punishment,” but that is unequivocally false. As our South Florida sexual assault lawyers can explain, it can be grounds for civil litigation – against the guards, staff and the prison itself. Claims against government agents and agencies are not easy cases, but they can be successful. Accountability in these matters not only brings justice for victims, but helps reduce the chances that future inmates will be preyed upon in the same way.
Recently, the U.S Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division concluded an investigation into the conditions at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Florida, finding reasonable cause of Eighth Amendment violations for failure to protect prisoners from sexual abuse and assault by the staff. This is an express violation of provisions of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980, a federal statute that protects the civil rights of those in correctional facilities, nursing homes, mental health facilities and institutions for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Officials at prisons have a constitutional responsibility to protect prisoners from harm. Prosecutors for the DOJ say that incarcerated women at the Florida prison were frequent victims of sexual abuse by prison staff. Further, women were discouraged from reporting the abuse and some investigations were even handled by the abusers themselves. As reported by Courthouse News, there were numerous documented cases of sexual coercion and rape, as well as reports of daily sexual harassment, groping and actions like watching inmates shower and use the toilet. Threats of solitary confinement or withholding basic necessities reportedly occurred when inmates objected. Some inmates were allegedly beaten and physically assaulted when they objected. Continue reading