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Sexual misconduct at Denver women's prison: Why is the claimed rate so high?

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A new government report on the rate of sexual victimization in America's jails and prisons lists the Denver Women's Correctional Facility as having the highest rate of sexual assault and misconduct by staff of any lockup in the nation -- four times the national average, in fact. That figure is dismaying state corrections officials, already reeling from parole snafus and the murder of prison chief Tom Clements.

It may also be more than slightly misleading.

The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics bases that claim on a survey of more than 92,000 inmates housed in state and federal jails and prisons. The overall rate of prisoners who claim to have been subjected to sexual assault or misconduct hovers around 4 percent; for incidents perpetrated by staff rather than other inmates, it's around 2.4 percent. Yet the Denver women's prison ranks at the top of a list of "high-risk" hoosegows with a staff-on-inmate reporting rate of 10.7 percent, based on responses to the survey from 160 inmates there.

Yet there are reasons to approach that staggering figure with some caution. It's true that Denver Women's has had some ugly lawsuits over the years, stemming from lax supervision of staff and DOC's "gender-neutral" staffing policies, which often put male guards in charge of female prisoners. One case a few years ago involved a correctional officer, David Christensen, who was a known suspect in several bizarre incidents of stalking and shoe fetishism but continued to work the night shift at Denver Women's -- until he was arrested, charged and convicted of raping a female inmate in a storage closet.

True, too, that there's always been a disturbing gulf between the incredibly low number of officially reported and "confirmed" sexual assaults within DOC and the much higher figures produced by anonymous surveys of inmates, as pointed out in my 2011 account of one openly gay inmate's ordeal of extortion and sexual assault, "The Devil's Playground." You could take the view, as some corrections honchos do, that the inmates are just making it all up to get free cookies from researchers, or you could deduce that quite possibly the vast majority of sex crimes behind bars go unreported.

At the same time, there's no denying that DOC has taken steps to discourage sexual exploitation of inmates at the women's prison, from aggressively investigating officers accused of misconduct to upgrading surveillance and eliminating some of the blind spots and closets where predators like Christensen operated. It's also significant that the 10.7 percent figure refers not just to assaults but "misconduct," a much more ambiguous term. At least some of the complaints at the prison can be blamed on the DOC's piggishly intrusive policy of conducting degrading "labia lift" searches on female inmates after visiting sessions, a practice that ended only after the ACLU threatened a lawsuit. The government survey was conducted a year after the policy was changed, but memories of that brilliant procedure may have influenced answers to questions about staff engaging in "inappropriate" sexual conduct.

That one in ten women at DWCF feel sexually abused in some way is no real surprise. Despite some reform efforts within DOC, there's still no policy to keep male correctional officers from being in charge of female prisoners. (Although same-sex misconduct is also an issue, it's statistically lower.) You don't need to be a student of Chained Heat to see the situation as a set-up for trouble all around.

More from our News archive: "'Labia lift' strip searches: ACLU action gooses prison officials into changing degrading policy."

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28 comments
Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

D.O.C. severely 'punishes' it's own personnel . They will have their meal-time break changed to a time AFTER all the 'cool' officers have finished . I heard one time they even made an officer sit out the 1st three innings of an inner-facility game !

Oh, the cruelty !!!...

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Are we hearing of ANY arrests ?

ALL forms of law enforcement PROTECT each other .

Most prison guards actually believe they are some form of 'Special Operations Law Enfoecement', convincing themselves they are actual POLICE officers and we all KNOW the conviction rate among cops . What ? Less than a single percent ?!!!!!

Green_eyes
Green_eyes

It's to bad that this type of misconduct goes on in prisons..... The staff are just as bad if not worse then the prisoners.... Disgusting...

betweenthecheeks
betweenthecheeks

Sexual abuse at the hands of the state. Who would have thunk it?

Nandrolone
Nandrolone

I've been saying it for months, Colorado is run by Nazis NOT Patriots. The welcoming murals at the airport tell all. The frequent police brutality coverage in local news, its getting worse nationwide. Kalifornia, Kolorado. The cops here act as L.A. thug cops. I'm saying its a skeery sitch E aye shun here. As dcCU I told ya and also on the A64 I said they will create laws before they grant the A64 vote. Greedy, underhanded legal smooth criminals all around. Be very very careful people...

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 "intrusive policy of conducting degrading "labia lift" searches on female inmates"

The DOC conducts "nutsack lift" searches on male inmates, along with "bend over and spread 'em" ass cheek / sphincter searches.

No word on whether they mandate "hemorrhoid lifts" for those so affected.


... and to think that Stupid Stoners BEGGED the Government for the FIST of REGULATION.



Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

People had the audacity to inquire WHY I applauded the assignation of the 'HEAD ' of this group of rapists and extreme legal torture,  while cradling ALL sex-offenders  ?!!!?

The Colorado Dept Of Corruption ENCOURAGES,( off the record for the most part), activities which easily make 'Shaw Shank Redemption',  a G-Rated, family film .

Nandrolone
Nandrolone

yeah and now they are saying they can't even babysit! What a bunch of panti-wastes! just sickening!

Nandrolone
Nandrolone

@Juan_Leg and if the GOOD would stand up to the BAD before the BAD gets the GOOD caught up in some BS but I decided the GOOD can't fight this war from w/in...the People must do it, the GOOD are in enough danger, the BAD are BADDER and BADDEST these days, like within our govt. the BAD are the majority, our wits also must be used as weapons against the BAD. Shout out of APPRECIATION TO SHERIFFS FOR lawsuit against gun restrictions and bans now that's PROTECTing and SERVE-ing The People!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Green_eyes "It's to [sic] bad that this type of misconduct goes on in prisons..... The staff are just as bad if not worse then [sic] the prisoners...."

It's too bad that you failed grade school grammar ... and carry that illiteracy into adulthood.


Nandrolone
Nandrolone

@betweenthecheeks despicable!! There IS a better way. The types of people that place temptation and lure others only to degrade or punish them when they succumb in human nature ARE the worst. Are they saying they are incompetent and cannot manage a plan of supervision of prevention? Please.They have become poisoned sick by their own profession of "correction."

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@Nandrolone  Too many talk out their asses and absolutely REFUSE to read or listen to ANYTHING that resembles common sense, backed by simple science or basic logic .

They will argue w/o hearing the other out, or won't even take a few minutes to research PROVIDED sites, requiring a 'click' & a bit of reading or viewing photographs . No . this group BELIEVES EVERYTHING the media reports and ANY & ALL interpretations of the bible ...

These are the ones I iggy . If more would do just this, these blogs would improve instantly !

WW should install an 'IGNORE' button before Patricia jumps off the 'Speer' bridge because everyone has abandoned ALL commenting in HER once, proud, informative, 'flying off the stands', Denver publication . Compare a 25 yr old edition to now, and you'll EASILY get my point . I remember when if you hadn't gotten a copy by AT THE LATEST, Saturday afternoon, you were 'S.O.L.' !  Now w/ p.c.'s the point is practically mute BUT, ..........

Nandrolone
Nandrolone

@DonkeyHotay degrading and disgusting practices! those that BEGGED for it deserve the FIST, then they will have a different perspective.

Nandrolone
Nandrolone

@DonkeyHotay I think green-eyes is trying...and that would be thanks to the teachers and the broken education system, big bully DonkeyHotay :) jj, I know you try and give peeps a kick a swift in the right direction :) To some, green-eyes would be top-of-the-class...and you would be the problem! BAH!...and me...

Green_eyes
Green_eyes

To bad this place is to hard to post a comment on....... But what's even worse is people like Donkey have to patrol the boards...

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Nandrolone @DonkeyHotay 

... so it raises the question -- Why do Female Genitals deserve more protection than Male Genitals?

Inquiring Minds Want to Know.


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@Green_eyes  

He's sometimes, GRAMMAR-OBSESSED' !!!

Too brilliant to totally ignore ...

Green_eyes
Green_eyes

Blame??? Sorry donkey, I'm just pointing out how truly miserable you are.....,

Green_eyes
Green_eyes

You know Donkey, I just have to laugh at you.... You must be a pretty miserable person if your life goal is to personally attack others..... You know they say when people act like that its just a reflection of themselves they see..... Self esteem issues.... Poor donkey:(

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Green_eyes ... shouldn't you be attending the weekend remedial English classes in preparation for your G.E.D. ?


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