There are more than two million people at any given time living in prisons in the United States. While it is true that these inmates have been convicted of crimes, both nonviolent and violent, they should be able to serve their time in safely. Yet, studies have shown that anywhere from 10% – 25% of all inmates are sexually assaulted and often by the very guards who are supposed to be keeping order behind bars.
Federal Prison Guards Charged With Sexual Assault
In May of 2017, three guards at the Metropolitan Detention Center located in Brooklyn were arrested and charged with the sexual assault of nine female inmates.
According to the charges filed against them, the first guard, a lieutenant, raped an inmate who was set to be deported numerous times before she left the facility. The second guard, also a lieutenant, would assault the women who had been assigned to cleaning duty and were in the process of cleaning his office. The third guard has been accused of forcing female inmates to perform oral sex.
In each instance, the guards threatened their victims, saying that if they told anyone, their time in prison would be extended.
Sadly, the investigation into these allegations has revealed that this isn’t the first time an inmate has accused a guard of sexual assault at this facility. In fact, accusations go as far back as the early 1990’s when an inmate told the F.B.I. that she had been sexually assaulted by a guard when assigned to the nightly cleaning team. Just last year, a federal judge expressed that she was hesitant to send females there because of the rumors she had heard about how prisoners were treated. Yet until now, nothing has been done to change those conditions.
Understandably, inmates don’t often report their assault because they are afraid of retaliation. But it’s important for these victims to know that they do have rights.
What Is Being Done To Protect Inmates?
On September 4th, 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed. This act was the first step taken to protect inmates. The hope was that through information collection and the implementation of a “zero-tolerance” policy, rapes would be greatly reduced in the prison system. Yet, as this most recent case in Brooklyn highlights, rape continues to happen with shocking frequency.
Criminal Charges & Civil Lawsuits
When a victim reports their sexual assault to the police, the police will investigate, collect evidence, and then press criminal charges against the person the victim alleges attacked them. If found guilty, the defendant may face fines and jail time. While criminal charges go a long way to help the victim feel safe and obtain a sense that justice has been served, it does nothing to provide them with compensation.
These victims do have the option of seeking compensation through a sexual assault lawsuit. This legal filing is completely separate from the criminal charges. Through either a settlement agreement or successful verdict, the plaintiff could obtain monetary compensation for their physical pain and suffering, medical expenses, and even emotional trauma.
Plaintiffs Can Remain Anonymous
In addition to the fear of retaliation, one of the most common reasons that victims don’t report their attack is that they don’t want the public to know their identity and they are afraid others won’t believe them. What many don’t know is that it is possible to press criminal charges and file a civil lawsuit while remaining anonymous.
How Long Does A Lawsuit Take?
It may seem intimidating but lawsuits can take months to resolve. However, the majority of this time is spent during the discovery phase where the plaintiff’s legal team performs a thorough investigation of the incident, interview any potential witnesses, and collects evidence to support their client’s claim.
Settlement vs Trial – What’s Better?
There is no simple answer to this question. Whenever an offer is made to settle, the plaintiff’s attorney will present it to them and discuss their options. Options include rejecting the offer, accepting, or having the attorney negotiate a higher settlement. If a settlement offer can’t be agreed upon, then the case will go to trial.
There really is no right or wrong answer and each plaintiff must do what they think is best.