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June 23, 2006 - Associated Press (US)

Prison Sexual Abuse Called Out Of Control

By Brent Kallestad, Associated Press

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Former inmate Ashley Turner was not surprised to hear that investigators had raided a federal prison to arrest guards accused of having sex with inmates. She said she was pressured by guards at the same facility.

Wednesday's raid set off a deadly shootout when one of the guards pulled a handgun on federal agents. But the confrontation also raised new questions about whether men should be assigned to guard women's prisons.

Turner said she never had sex with guards at the Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution, but they coerced her to strip and touch herself sexually. She said other inmates would have sex with guards in exchange for cell phones, money and marijuana.

The sex-for-contraband scheme had been going on for years, she said, and involved more than the six guards who were indicted.

"That list should probably be three times longer," said Turner, who was released in 2004 for bank fraud. "These are just the ones who hung around long enough to get arrested."

Authorities said corrections officer Ralph Hill, an Air Force veteran, had smuggled a gun into the prison and opened fire as FBI agents and Justice Department investigators arrived.

Hill, 43, and Justice Department special agent William "Buddy" Sentner were killed in the exchange, and a prison employee helping with the arrests was wounded.

Just two days earlier, nine former guards at a juvenile facility in Indianapolis were charged with having sex with female detainees as young as 13, and there have been other allegations throughout the country.

In a 2004 study of more than 2,700 correctional facilities for men and women, charges of sexual misconduct by employees were made in all but one state prison surveyed by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Similar accusations were made against more than two of every five local jails.

From fiscal years 2000 to 2004, the Justice Department opened investigations of 351 people accused of sexually abusing federal inmates.

"The bottom line is that women in correctional facilities should be guarded by women," said Alison Parker, acting director of the New York-based U.S. Human Rights Watch. "Men have been assigned to inappropriate tasks in inappropriate locations, for example: Male corrections officials guarding women where they take showers."

Dr. Roger Guthrie said he was fired from the Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, after he complained about the sexual abuse of prisoners, which he said was rampant.

"There is no such thing as consensual sex with an inmate," Guthrie said Thursday. "It's rape. And it's still going on."

In the Tallahassee case, in addition to bribing the inmates for sex, the guards were accused of threatening to plant contraband in their belongings or have them shipped to another facility farther from friends and families if they reported the illegal activity.

"Sometimes allegation doesn't mean that person is guilty," said Mike Marrett, assistant director of corrections for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 63,000 corrections officers nationally.

The surviving five Tallahassee guards all pleaded not guilty.

Turner, who now lives in Rome, Ga., said she knew all of the indicted guards.

"One is known as "the Rev," she said. "He's a minister away from the prison. He was very, very bad. He'd pretend to be ministering with the girls."

She said she is still troubled by what happened while she was imprisoned.

"You don't get over a place like Tallahassee overnight," Turner said. "It's not doing the time, but it's what happens to you when you're there trying to do the time."

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