A new report published this week alleges that female inmates at an Alabama State correctional facility were repeatedly raped and abused by their male prison guards.
The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based civil rights organization, has published their findings in a new report made available this week to the US Department of Justice. The document allegedly contains reports of widespread incidents at the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama that extends from 2009 through 2011 and is compiled by statements made from more than 50 female inmates.
Explaining the findings to reporters, Equal Justice Initiative President Bryan Stevenson says the testimonies conclude that “there's widespread sex abuse and assaults of women by correctional staff."
"What we found is pretty shocking," adds Stevenson, reports the Huffington Post.
"Many of them reported encounters with the warden that they characterize as abusive, threatening and intimidating," Stevenson adds. "The women report that when you complain, you are placed in segregation and are subjected to very aggressive treatment by investigators and other staff. It is not an environment that encourages people to come forward with instances of abuse."
"Male guards go into showers, they aren't restricted from going into bathrooms, even though there are plenty of female guards … subtle things like that we've raised as issues that we'd like to see addressed, as well as not punishing women when they bring up these allegations," Stevenson tells the Associated Press of the organization’s findings.
"This troubling cycle of abuse and lack of accountability has established a widespread pattern and practice of custodial sexual misconduct," Stevenson adds to CNN.
Some inmates have also told the EJI that they became pregnant as a result of rape inside the prison.
"It's an ongoing thing, a daily thing," Stefanie Hibbett, a former Tutwiler inmate, tells CNN. "You see women raped and beaten, and nothing is ever done."
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas has responded to the findings by telling reporters, "This is a matter of grave concern to me," and that "sexual misconduct of any kind, including custodial sexual misconduct, is not tolerated by this department."
This isn’t, however, the first time the Tutwiler Prison administration has been under fire. Up until 2007, HIV-positive inmates at the facilities were segregated from other convicts and forced to attend separate dining facilities and places of worship.
Despite ongoing incidents, however, Thomas says that the corrections department is "committed to improving security and providing for the safety of inmates and officers at Tutwiler."
More than 20 employees of Tutwiler Prison have been fired or transferred during the last half-decade for crimes relating to illegal sexual activity, reports the AP.