In 2000, in a Texas prison, a corrections officer was sexually harassing Garrett Cunningham, touching him inappropriately during pat searches and making crude comments. Cunningham, as he told the commission, complained to prison authorities, but they told him that he was exaggerating, and that the officer was just doing his job. Soon after, the officer handcuffed Cunningham, pushed his face into a pile of laundry, and raped him. Cunningham weighed 145 pounds; the officer more than twice that. He said that if Cunningham ever tried to report the rape, he would have other officers write false charges against him, or else transfer him to a rougher unit where he would be raped by gang members “all the time.” Then he told Cunningham that the officials he had complained to previously were friends of his who would always take his side.
When Laura Berry told the Arkansas corrections officer who had raped her that she thought she might be pregnant, he forced her, according to the commission’s findings, to drink turpentine and quinine, hoping that would induce an abortion. After Kenneth Young was raped at knifepoint by a cellmate in Pennsylvania, he flooded the cell to attract the attention of officers, and as punishment was put in a “dry cell” for ninety-six hours, with no access to running water, a shower, or a toiletâ€”forced “to live in his own excrement,” as a court later put it. Alisha Brewer told our organization, JDI, that she was raped by three different corrections officers as a twenty-two-year-old prisoner in Kentucky; she reported the last two incidents, and was punished with more than four months of punitive segregation and loss of sixty days of good time on her sentence. Another prisoner who wrote to us, and who for obvious reasons prefers to remain anonymous, quoted the male officer who was abusing her: “Remember if you tell anyone anything, you’ll have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life.” We get letters like this every day.
The piece also documents the opposition from correctional authorities and related associations to reform recommended by a committee that included them.