TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) --Florida Prison System was in shambles.
Softball, drunken orgies and a prison system run like the mafia. That's what Florida's former prison secretary says he inherited when he took over one of the nation's largest prison systems two years ago.
In fact, on his first day on the job, James McDonough says he walked into his office -- the same one his predecessor used -- and there was crime scene tape preventing anyone from entering. Criminal charges were filed against more than 40 others, and most were convicted.
In addition to the orgies and other misconduct outside the cell blocks, there were other allegations of prisoners being harmed, McDonough said. "In some of the pockets of corruption that we found, they [prisoners] were being abused," he said.
Lowell Correctional Institute Female Inmates' Complaints Hit Wall. TAMPA WFLA, News Channel 8, reviewed 468 complaints alleging improper conduct ranging from love letters to voyeurism to sex between prison staff members and female inmates - Wendy Baker said she was handcuffed and helpless when the officer escorting her across the prison yard knelt down and pulled up her socks to ease the chafing of her leg shackles.
What he did next, she said, paralyzed her with fear, rekindled memories of childhood abuse and made her want to die. `I felt like I couldn't breathe,'' Baker said. "I wanted the world to end right there.'' Baker later told prison inspectors that Lowell Correctional Institution Officer Shonne Webb-Bey molested her, and it wasn't the first time. State records indicate Lowell's warden, Gerald Abdul- Wasi, fired Webb-Bey based on Baker's allegation and the sheer number of inmate complaints.
Lowell Correction Institution located in Ocala, Florida was the first Florida prison for women. It was opened in April 1956 as the Florida Correctional Institution. It houses all security levels: minimum, maximum, and death row. It has a maximum population of 1,244 female inmates ranging anywhere from youth (14-18) to adults (18+).
Offender Search for the Lowell CI Facility: Browse current population. Male officers are sometimes present during many of the private moments in the lives of women prisoners at Lowell CI, when they dress and undress, take showers, or go to the toilet. Still more of a problem is that in almost all states male guards are permitted to carry out pat-down searches of female inmates, touching women through their clothes, including their breasts and genitals.
Allegations of sexual abuse of women in prison and the number of successful lawsuits by women prisoners have both been growing. Serious charges involving well over a thousand women inmates have been brought, and in many cases substantiated, in forty-eight out of the fifty states. And that number almost certainly represents a small fraction of the incidents that occur.
according to the indictment.
UPDATE..Ex-Sheriff, Jailers Charged With Inmate Sex, Taking Them Drugs, Saturday, February 28, 2009 FORT WORTH, Texas — A former North Texas sheriff and some ex-jailers were among 17 people named Friday in a 106-count indictment on charges ranging from having sex with inmates to taking them drugs. Bill Keating, who was Montague County sheriff from 2004-08, is charged with official oppression and having sex with inmates in April and in the fall,
Keating was not up for re-election because he lost in the primary last spring. Several women who worked as jailers are charged with having sex with inmates and taking them drugs, cell phones and cigarettes in 2007 and 2008, according to the indictment. Some men jailers are charged with drug possession and with taking inmates banned items.
A couple of inmates are charged with drug possession, according to the indictment. State District Judge Roger Towery has sealed the names in the indictments until they are arrested, but their jobs and charges were made public.
Not all the assaults are carried out by the guards. One case that has had wide consequences involved Robin Lucas, the owner of a hair salon, who was convicted of cashing $7,800 worth of stolen travelers' checks and sentenced to thirty-three months in the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, California.
One night, as Ms. Lucas lay sleeping in her cell, she was awakened, as she later described it, "by the hot breath of a man, his body pushing against me, tugging at my clothes, demanding that I be nice to him." The man was a male inmate from another part of the prison who had paid guards to allow him to go into Ms. Lucas's cell. Though she managed to fight him off, she was seriously injured.
Three weeks later a far worse attack took place, this time involving three inmates who handcuffed and repeatedly raped and sodomized her. Upon her release, Lucas sued the federal government, which settled the case in 1998 for $500,000, one of the first and largest settlements of its kind.
Since then dozens of other lawsuits have been filed and many have been settled out of court for substantial sums. In addition to correctional officers, prison medical officials, parole officers, and even chaplains have had to acknowledge sexual offenses
Cassandra Collins was a thirty-four-year-old mother of two daughters when she was sentenced to six months in Florida's Gadsden County Jail for passing worthless bank checks. She began serving her time in November 1995.
Worried that her daughters, then twelve and fourteen, were not being adequately supervised while she was in jail, Collins asked a captain in the county jail if she was eligible for a furlough program that would allow her to spend the night and part of each day at home with her children.
The officer agreed to permit Collins to enter a program under which she would work in the jail laundry from 8 AM to 3 PM and then return home. But the captain warned Collins when she began her furlough, "Now you belong to me!"
It was not long before Cassandra Collins learned what the captain meant. At first he demanded that she pay him for being allowed to go home after work. Collins, as he knew, had recently settled a claim for a workers' compensation injury; she would eventually give him more than $5,000.
Soon, however, the extortion took a different form. After insisting that Collins come into work on Christmas Eve, the captain told her that he would pick her up in his truck. But instead of heading to the jail, he pulled into the parking lot of a funeral home. He briefly showed Collins the gun under his seat and then forced her head into his lap, insisting she perform oral sex. Collins jumped out of the truck and escaped, but a few weeks later she was not so lucky. This time, with the connivance of a sheriff's deputy, the captain got Collins into his car, drove her to a deserted spot in a nearby wood, and raped her.
When Cassandra Collins was released from jail, she told her story to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLA). The FDLA decided that it could not win a case against the officer and refused to press charges. But, according to Collins, her accusations prompted one of the captain's fellow officers to claim that she, too, had been a victim of sexual assault at the captain's hands. In November 2000, the captain pleaded guilty in that case and is now serving time in federal prison.
Prison staff engage in sexual relations with female prisoners and allow male inmates to enter the prisons to engage in forcible intercourse with the women prisoners. Hamilton v. Morial, La. (1995) (consent decree pending court approval).
Prison Guards routinely sexually assault female prisoners. One officer sexually fondles a prisoner who is receiving medical care in the infirmary, forces her to perform oral sex, then rapes her. Another officer forces a prisoner to perform oral sex while she empties trash as part of a work detail. Women Prisoners v. District of Columbia, D.C. (1994) (post trial order).
Dozens of women. some as young as 16, are forced to have sex with prison guards, maintenance workers, and a prison chaplain. Many become pregnant and are coerced by prison staff to have abortions. Cason v. Seckinger, Ga. (1994) (consent decree). Improper sexual activity with someone in custody is a state felony, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in state jail.