By Perla Brito
WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff, chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, this week called findings “deeply disturbing” from the panel’s eight–month investigation of alleged sexual abuse of women in federal prisons.
Ossoff (D-GA) held a hearing to disclose the panel’s findings this week, including the testimony of three women who were sexually abused by Bureau of Prisons employees while incarcerated. In the second panel, senators questioned top Dept. of Justice and BOP officials.
“Our findings are deeply disturbing and demonstrate, in my view, that the BOP is failing systemically to prevent, detect, and address sexual abuse of prisoners by its own employees,” said Ossoff.
The Bipartisan Investigation staff reportedly reviewed extensive non-public Bureau of Prisons and whistleblower documents, and more than two dozen interviews with senior BOP leaders, whistleblowers, and survivors of prison sexual abuse were conducted.
The panel investigation looked at four Bureau of Prisons facilities: MCC New York, MDC Brooklyn, FCC Coleman (Florida), and FCI Dublin (California), and found women were abused at these four facilities multiple times over an extended period.
Chair Ossoff said, “We found that BOP has failed to prevent, detect, and stop recurring sexual abuse including by senior prison officials. At FCI Dublin California for example, the warden and the chaplain sexually abused female prisoners. We found that BOP has failed to successfully implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act.”
BOP employees at FCI Dublin and FCC Coleman were abusing multiple women over an extended period of time, the lawmaker charged, noting that somehow they passed or were found to have exceeded the PREA audit criteria which is mandated by Congress.
The PREA audit criteria is, theoretically, intended to detect the risk of sexual abuse in BOP facilities.
Ossoff said “Let me be absolutely clear, this situation is intolerable. Sexual abuse of inmates is a gross abuse of human and constitutional rights and cannot be tolerated by the United States Congress. It is cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and basic standards of human decency.”
In the case of FCI Dublin, the PREA compliance officer, the official specifically tasked with ensuring compliance with the federal law, whose purpose is the elimination of prison rape, was himself sexually abusing prisoners, said Ossoff.
In the case of FCC Coleman, all female prisoners had been transferred out of the facility just two days before the PREA audit, making it impossible for the auditor to interview female prisoners despite the legal requirement that they interview inmates as part of the audit.
The subcommittee’s report found the Office of Internal Affairs has a backlog of 8,000 internal affairs cases at the Bureau of Prisons, including at least hundreds of sexual abuse allegations against BOP employees that remain unresolved.