The U.S. Justice Department is expanding its investigation into the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, after looking into allegations of sexual abuse and harassment during the past 18 years — and a former prisoner tells us everything in the report… is true.
“I still have dreams about a lot of stuff that has happened there,” Said the former Tutwiler inmate who spent six months at the prison. We’ve chosen to keep her identity hidden.
She says the Department of Justice’s findings describing abusive sexual contact between staff and prisoners, even staff watching inmates shower and use the toilets… is all true.
“Now, in the bathroom there was no door. So he would literally put his hand up at the top and reach over and look at the females and sit there and talk to them while they were naked,” Said the former inmate.
The report also says prisoners are forced to submit to sexual advances to get necessities or to avoid punishment.
“For things that they received as far as steaks, I mean, different kind of stuff,” Said the former inmate. “Hygiene products, radios, there was even a phone.”
A group called The Equal Justice Initiative first reported the sexual abuse back in 2012, which resulted in six officers being convicted of sexual misconduct.
The group’s attorney, Charlotte Morrison, says so far, they’ve interviewed more than 50 women who say they’ve been sexually abused.
“We also know another 17 officers between the years of 2011 and 2013 were referred to criminal and sexual misconduct at Tutwiler alone,” Said Morrison.
It’s misconduct the former Tutwiler inmate says traumatized her life after months of what she calls a sexualized environment, where she was watched in the shower and bathroom, called names like “fresh meat” and threatened multiple times.
She describes a time when a liutenant threatened her: “When the man told me he’d bust me in my face and I was like you don’t even know me. I mean, what I did it was wrong, but you don’t treat me like that. I am still a human,” Said the former inmate.
The Department of Justice report says the women at Tutwiler “universally fear for their safety” and the former inmate says she couldn’t agree more, that’s exactly how she felt.
Alabama News Network reached out to Alabama Department of Corrections spokesperson, Brian Corbett, who told us prison officials were unavailable for an interview on Monday.
But Prison Commissioner, Kim Thomas, released a statement saying, “We consider allegations of custodial sexual misconduct to be an unacceptable abuse of power. During the last year we have worked tirelessly to implement recommendations of the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Corrections, a review that I requested. Positive reforms have been put in place and those reforms will continue.”
Alabama News Network will keep you updated with this investigation.
This 36-page Department of Justice report says Tutwiler Prison has failed to protect women inmates from sexual abuse from staff members.
The former inmate we spoke with says she, too, experienced the sexual harrassment described in the report. While she’s trying to move forward now, it’s traumatized her life.