ADOC responds to report of widespread sexual violence at Tutwiler Prison

Published: May. 22, 2012 at 4:16 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2012 at 4:16 PM CDT
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Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka
Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka
Guard tower at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka
Guard tower at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka

WETUMPKA, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Corrections is issuing a statement following a non-profit organization's investigation and subsequent filing with the U.S. Department of Justice that claims Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka has a widespread pattern of officer-on-inmate sexual violence.

The Equal Justice Initiative, which says it provides representation to indigent and prisoners who have been denied fair legal treatment, filed the complaint Tuesday. It's seeking a full federal investigation.

The Department of Corrections said Tuesday morning it had no comment. Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner Kim Thomas acknowledged the EJI investigation and issued the following statement:

"This is a matter of grave concern to me. Sexual misconduct of any kind, including custodial sexual misconduct, is not tolerated by this Department. From the beginning of my watch, I have made it very clear to my staff that custodial sexual misconduct will not be tolerated and is an especially egregious offense to me.  We take every action possible to prevent it from happening and if it does, we undertake prompt corrective employee discipline and pursue criminal prosecution where applicable."

EJI says it interviewed more than 50 women incarcerated at the prison and uncovered a pattern of "frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence."

EJI says during the course of its investigation, it found that incarcerated inmates gave birth to children fathered out of rape by prison guards and that more than 20 Tutwiler employees have been transferred or fired in the last five years for illegal sexual contact with prisoners.

DOCUMENT: Read EJI's investigation]

The watchdog group also claims that that prison officials are under-reporting the number of sexual assault incidents and are intimidating inmates to prevent them from filing complaints.

"Rape and sexual assault of incarcerated women is criminal and an outrageous abuse of power," said EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson, who wrote the letter to the Justice Department. "Any failure by state and federal officials to respond quickly and appropriately to reports of sexual violence will contribute to tragic and shameful conditions of confinement for women."

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