United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
Posted on Sat, Aug. 20, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO - California's chief of prisons is unsure how many inmates get raped and sexually assaulted in his prisons, but he's confident the problem can be reduced.
"Not just because it's the law, but because we have made a commitment to safe prisons and because we treat prisoners humanely," said Roderick Hickman, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who testified before a congressional commission studying the problem of rape in prisons across the country.
San Francisco was the second stop in a series of hearings for the nine-member, bipartisan commission. Each stop has a different theme and testimony Friday focused on protecting vulnerable inmates - young people, gay, lesbian and transgender inmates and the mentally ill.
The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission was created by Congress and was given about a year to prepare a report on the problem and propose national standards governing the prevention, investigation and punishment of abuse.
Hickman said areas that need improvement in California include: communication among prisons; access to information about assaults; better classification of inmates, so vulnerable prisoners aren't put in cells with violent predators; and more effective punishment for staffers who abuse inmates or fail to report abuse.
"The systems that we have in place are not adequate," he told the five commissioners who attended the daylong hearing.
Hickman said he's already centralized the process of investigating allegations of misconduct and abuse. Reports now go directly to Hickman's office rather than to wardens at individual prisons. He also said he's implementing new ethics and leadership training as well as training to break the "code of silence" that keeps guards from reporting abuse.
"If you see misconduct, you must report it and that's OK," he said outside the ceremonial courtroom where the hearing was held.
Five men and women who said they were raped while locked up also testified, including Kendell Spruce, an Arkansas check forger who said he was raped by 27 fellow prisoners, including a cellmate who infected him with HIV.
But Arkansas Correction Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler said by phone Thursday that Spruce's allegations were untrue.
"If there was sexual activity with Kendell Spruce, he either initiated it or was a willing participant," Tyler said. "These are stories he made up. He is not telling the truth."
When asked for a response Friday, Spruce shook his head.
"They know it happened. They're lying," he said. "You think they want to admit that this happened to an inmate?"
One of the biggest hurdles advocates said they face is public indifference and an unwillingness to take seriously the problem.
Commissioners repeatedly thanked the witnesses for their courage.
Hope Hernandez wiped her eyes and paused several times as she talked about how she was raped by a guard in a shower at a Washington, D.C., facility. She said she was heavily medicated to help ease her withdrawal from drugs and unable to fight back.
"I felt myself screaming inside, but the sound wasn't making it out of my throat," she said. "No one, no matter how young, vulnerable or sick, ever has to go through the terrible experiences I did."
Cecelia Chung said she had recently undergone a sex change operation when she was arrested in San Francisco for prostitution in 1993. She said she was put in a cell with gay men, one of whom gave her a Snickers bar after raping her.
"I knew from my experience that refusing sex can be dangerous, even deadly," she said. "I had sex out of fear."
ON THE NET
Stop Prison Rape: http://www.spr.org/
Alleged incidents occurred at Donovan state prison
By Mark Arner
March 1, 2003
A veteran guard at Donovan state prison in Otay Mesa has been jailed on charges he sexually assaulted a 32-year-old inmate in late 2001.
Kimberly Lewis, who has worked for the state Department of Corrections for nearly 17 years, was charged yesterday with 10 felony counts accusing him of forcing the inmate to have oral sex with him on at least two occasions, according to court records.
Bail was set at $250,000. Lewis is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in San Diego Superior Court.
Lewis, who is black, is also accused in court records of making threatening remarks toward Asians. Co-workers told investigators that they heard him make comments such as "I told my psychiatrist I'm going postal, kill some more Asians. I might just kill everyone."
The allegations surfaced as prosecutors sought a stiff bail. No charges have been filed in connection with those allegations.
Investigators were notified of the sexual assault allegations when the state Office of the Inspector General got a letter from the prisoner last Aug. 29. The inmate said Lewis began propositioning him with sexually explicit remarks in 2001, according to court records.
At one point, Lewis, 48, told the prisoner that if he did not agree to perform oral sex, Lewis could file a bogus charge against him and extend his time in the 4,386-bed prison, court records show.
The first time Lewis assaulted the inmate was in November 2001 in a laundry room, records state. After locking the door, Lewis told the prisoner, "You know what you gotta do." Lewis took off his belt and unzipped his jumpsuit, according to court records.
Less than three weeks later, the inmate was again sexually assaulted in the laundry room. But before the assault, the prisoner stuffed a small towel in his pants pocket; he used the towel afterward to collect the guard's body fluids.
The prisoner later sent the towel to his sister and told her to contact a lawyer, records state. The lawyer put the towel in a plastic bag and froze it to preserve the evidence.
On Nov. 12, investigators secured a search warrant ordering the seizure of blood and saliva samples from Lewis. Samples were compared with spots on the towel and on Monday DNA test results implicating Lewis were returned.
The prisoner, who described himself as gay, wrote to The San Diego Union-Tribune in January. He is not being identified because it is the newspaper's policy not to name victims of sexual assault.
In his letter, the inmate described the first assault, saying, "What could I do? So I did it. After, I was pissed off, because there was nothing I could do, and nobody was going to listen to me . . . I wasn't going to let him get away with it."
The prisoner could not be reached yesterday to comment on the arrest.
It was not clear yesterday why the man was in prison. His sister said he had not been convicted of a violent felony.
His sister said reporting sexual assaults is hard for inmates.
"It appears from the time line of my brother's case that inmates have no access to help from inside prison walls," she said. "I fear for his safety. I pray that justice will be served."
The Department of Corrections does not keep statistics on how often prisoners have been sexually assaulted by guards or other prisoners.
Lara Stemple, executive director of a Los Angeles-based group called Stop Prisoner Rape, said prison sexual assaults are common, but are virtually ignored by the state prison system. She said they are rarely prosecuted.
"We routinely hear from male and female inmates who are sexually assaulted by the very officers who are charged with their protection," Stemple said. "This kind of sexual violence derails justice and destroys human dignity."
Female victims could become pregnant, and all victims "are exposed . . . to life-threatening diseases, and to psychological trauma. The impact of that often leads to substance abuse and sometimes to suicide."
Stemple's group last fall criticized the FBI for its practice of including only female rape victims in its annual Uniform Crime Report. She contends the report ignores "the vast numbers of men who are raped and sexually brutalized in prison."
"The best study that we can cite showed that one in five male inmates has been sexually assaulted and one in 10 have been raped," Stemple said.
The study, published in 2000 by Cindy Struckman-Johnson, looked at cases
in seven prisons in several Midwestern states. It can be viewed on the
group's Web site: http://www.spr.org/
Staff writer Susan Gembrowski contributed to this report.
Date: May 17, 2002
Summary: Recently, a small Los Angeles-based advocacy group, Stop Prisoner Rape, squared off against advertising giant Young & Rubican, and its client, 7 Up, the large soft drink company, owned by Britain's Cadbury Schweepes. At issue is the propriety of a television commercial making light of prison rape. Stop Prisoner Rape is right, 7 Up is wrong, as explained in this op-ed piece by Robert Bastian, an attorney who represents prison rape victim Eddie Webb Dillard in his lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections.
Stop Prisoner Rape is a small Los Angeles-based advocacy group devoted to addressing this problem. Recently, Stop Prisoner Rape squared off against advertising giant Young & Rubican, Inc., and its client, 7 Up. At issue is a television advertising campaign directed primarily at 12-24 year olds. In one ad, comedian Godfrey, poses as a company spokesman handing out 7 Up in a prison. After dropping a can, he states, "I'm not picking that up." Later, he sits uncomfortably in a cell as a bearded inmate wraps a tattooed arm around him. "When you bring the 7 Up everyone is your friend," the spokesman says. As the cell door slams, he adds, "Okay, that's enough being friends."
7 Up's spokesman says the company's sole aim was to create a humorous commercial, not offend anyone. According to 7 Up, test screenings showed the average person enjoyed the ad, but did not take the rape references seriously. He concludes, "We understand this is a serious issue" but "we believe the appropriate people to address it are [those] in the criminal justice and corrections systems." Thus, 7 Up has no plans to, as they say, kill the spot.
7 Up is wrong.
Elizabeth Noelle-Neuman, a noted social scientist who, in 1947, founded the prestigious German polling organization, the Allensbach Institute, has spent a lifetime studying and explaining how public opinion is formed. In her seminal work, The Spiral of Silence (1984), she elegantly demonstrates how opinions people openly share are powerfully conditioned by innate desires to socially fit in; how, at the deepest levels, opinions people publicly share are shaped by fear of social isolation. Consequently, people generally express opinions that fall within a range they perceive to be socially acceptable.
Implicit in her work is a search for, and explanation how, in a modern, highly educated democracy, officially tolerated human rights abuse and widespread depravity can, nonetheless, occur. Her work suggests there is social danger when outrage, even one cloaked in humor, is met with approval or -- what is sometimes worse -- an aura of approval in the form of silence.
Yet, when the consequences of silence in the face of outrage are, through experience and education, widely understood, outrageous ideas are met with appropriate disapproval. For an extreme example: if, instead, the commercial made light of the actor not following the soda can into a boxcar occupied by terrified internees, the effort would be commonly adjudged not only insensitive, but malevolent. Likewise, a commercial making light of an intimidating man implicitly threatening to sexually assault a woman should she bend over to retrieve a soda is entirely intolerable. Regrettably, though, there have been times and places where, if audience screening was the sole determinative factor, such ill-conceived advertising concepts might have passed muster.
What's left, now, is a climate in which, while it is unacceptable to trivialize rape, it is acceptable to trivialize rape behind bars. Not surprisingly, it has also become, in practice, penologically acceptable. When Dillard escaped from a Corcoran prison cell where he was violated for three days by a sociopath twice his size, correctional officers joked that he got his doughnut glazed. Now, guards operating at this level of moral awareness might offer the victim 7 Up.
While 7 Up would deny being morally implicated in a climate that enables prison rape, it nonetheless spends advertising dollars on the assumption that sharing with 12-24 year olds a chuckle -- that hapless fellows, such as the diminutive Godfrey, are likely to be raped if isolated in prison -- sells sodas. If 7 Up is correct that such shared drollery has measurable influence over young peoples' beverage preferences, it stands to reason it has at least that much influence over their attitudes towards prison rape. Stop Prisoner Rape rightly fears 7 Up is laying groundwork for another generation of silence in the face of outrage.
In 1910, Winston Churchill asserted, "treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country." In a 2001, 7 Up introduced its ad campaign, featuring, in the company's words, "comedian Godfrey as the brand's new clueless marketing executive . . .[i]n keeping with the campaign's overall theme . . . coming up with exciting and innovative concepts for marketing 7 Up, which ultimately go awry."
Stop Prisoner Rape's point, exactly
By: Robert L. Bastian, Jr.
Joanne Mariner, "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons,"
Elizabeth Noelle-Neuman, "The Spiral of Silence",
Frank Arens, Cracking the Code of Advertising,
Barry Shlachter, Inmate advocates chide 7 UP,
Tamar Lewin, Little Sympathy or Remedy for Inmates who are Raped
The Dillard case is also discussed in multiple LA Times articles by Mark Arax. (Indeed, his fine work has resulted in Eddie Dillard having a fighting chance in his civil lawsuit.)
The factual assertions in the second sentence are supported by a Declaration and accompanying exhibits filed in Dillard v. Decker, et al. U.S.D.C. Case No. CV F-94 5048 AWI SMS. A copy of the declaration is attached as an Appendix to the Human Rights Watch Report referenced above. A similar declaration is on file in the related case of Decker, et al. v. C.D.C., King County Superior Ct. No. 00C2852
7 Up Press releases (found at 222.dpsu.com):
1-4-02, 7 UP `Exposes' Itself to Consumers Through Integrated
10-31-01, 7 UP Introduces New Spokesman as Part of
Robert L. Bastian, Jr., can be reached at: