Friday, July 27, 2012

Sacramento County signs off on settlement to allow distribution of jail publication

Denny Walsh

A federal judge signed off Monday on the settlement of a lawsuit that will cost Sacramento County taxpayers $300,000 because the Sheriff's Department was not allowing distribution to inmates of a legal publication designed for prisoners.

The county has agreed to pay that amount to Prison Legal News within 60 days.

In addition, the monthly journal will be delivered to inmate subscribers at the Main Jail and Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center. The department, however, will remove staples that bind the magazines and the address labels before delivery.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sexual Exploitation of Female Offenders

By Caterina Spinaris Tudor , Ph.D.
Published: 07/23/2012

Women-jailThere was yet another mention in the press recently about the systematic and prolonged sexual exploitation of female inmates by male corrections staff. The description of the inmates’ helplessness and victimization was almost too painful for me to read. A question kept ringing in my ears, a question posed by corrections officials nationwide who are baffled as to why corrections workers would risk going to prison just to get some sexual gratification from offenders. Given the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (, staff who sexually assault offenders are subject to felony criminal charges punishable by prison sentences of their own and/or fines, as well as discipline by their corrections agency. However, those dire consequences do not seem to be sufficient to deter some corrections employees who contemplate engaging in sex acts with offenders. Why might this be so?

One way to understand this issue may result from understanding what has been called “sexual addiction” or sexual obsessive/compulsive behavior.

As you read this, please keep in mind that I am not suggesting that this condition exists in correctional employees to a greater extent than in the rest of society. However, even if the rate of sex addiction only matches the frequency in society as a whole, the consequences can be disastrous. A potentially perilous situation results when sex addiction is combined with the control that correctional employees have over offenders and with the domestic environment that institutional life presents.

The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health ( defines sexual addiction as a persistent and escalating pattern (or patterns) of sexual behaviors engaged in despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others. Sexual addiction is estimated to affect three to six percent of adults in the United States. If that is the case, what might be the number of corrections personnel who are battling sex addiction at your facility and your agency? Selective recruitment and mandatory professional training are designed to eliminate or reform “bad apples,” but all addictions tend to be resilient and to remain carefully hidden until exposed by a dramatic event. Sex addiction is no different.

Sex addicts pursue unhealthy, destructive sexual relationships or behaviors, and they are willing to run the risk of paying just about any price for a temporary sexual “high” of their preference. It is hypothesized that in the case of sex addiction certain types of sexual behavior become mood altering, an antidepressant or tranquilizer of sorts, a means for the addicts to create good feelings about themselves.

Obsessive/compulsive sexual pursuit takes a variety of forms. In a way, the only limit is imposed by the sex addict’s imagination.

Sexual addictive behaviors may start at low levels of risk and within the bounds of “normal” sexual behavior. Somewhere along the way however, the pursuit of sexual gratification, at times in ritualistic ways, starts assuming a life of its own. The obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors start dictating the decisions in a person’s life. The focus becomes the gratification of sexual urges. That goal becomes all-consuming, with the addicts organizing their lives around ways to satisfy the demands of their addiction one more time—and again, and again.

Sexual addiction, like other addictions, tends to follow a progressive path, as the addicts may get used to the “jolt” they receive from a certain behavior and pursue riskier behaviors to enjoy desired levels of excitement. The rush received from these high-risk behaviors is obviously short-lived and so the addict has to re-engage compulsively in increasingly destructive behaviors. This means that “close calls” that may frequently happen in a supervised setting like a correctional institution could have the unintended effect of increasing the risk of the next occurrence thereby enhancing the excitement, and strengthening the addiction.

At more severe stages of sex addiction people may indeed feel like they have lost control of their lives, that they are a car with no brakes careening down a mountain under icy conditions.

Some sex addicts may experience an inner struggle, as their conscience clearly tells them that their behavior violates their most cherished values and principles. They may try to escape their sexual obsessing or resist their sexual compulsion until the internal pressure builds to the point where they give in to their urges and engage in their sexual behavior of preference regardless of likely consequences. These individuals experience severe stress in relation to their sexual acting out due to knowing their guilt, and due to experiencing shame for their behavior and fear of getting caught. Other sex addicts do not experience much of a moral struggle, however. Lacking empathy, they view others as objects to be used for their gratification with no regard for the other party’s needs or rights. They may even convince themselves that their sexual targets want, invite or enjoy these sexual behaviors.

Sometimes entwined with the sexual gratification is a complex and unhealthy emotional entanglement, often with the sex addict being in control of the relationship. What characterizes these relationships is the inability to be truly oneself and truly vulnerable and intimate with their partners.

Corrections settings provide an open season type of environment for certain types of sex addicts, like a playground would for a pedophile. Incarcerated offenders are literally captive prey for corrections employees who may be already struggling with obsessive/compulsive sexual behaviors, or who are looking for a mood “fix” through a sexual “fix.” The staff spend the majority of their waking hours where offenders live, so professional boundary erosion over time and the eventual boundary collapse take place all too painfully often. The presence of Corrections Fatigue may also contribute to the dehumanization of offenders in the eyes of staff. Such dehumanization takes such employees one step closer to making excuses for their actions or even justifying their behavior through a sense of entitlement or the rationalization that “she really wanted it.” Being in absolute control, seemingly all-powerful in their own eyes, can fuel the flames of lust for some corrections employees in the throes of sex addiction.

In other cases current life stressors may seem unbearable to staff, who may engage in a seduction/sexual escapade with an offender as a thrilling diversion. However, in my opinion patterns of repeated sexual abuses speak more of predatory sex addiction (ways to get a “fix”) than attempts to temporarily escape circumstantial distress.

Over time, sex-addicted staff may engage in sexual behaviors of increasingly higher aggression, boldness and risk. They might employ threats, blackmail and bribes of alcohol and other drugs. Consequently, the security risk increases accordingly.

As sexual addiction takes hold of the life of the addicts, all—and I mean ALL—is surrendered at the altar of their very cruel sex addiction god. Relationships, family, health, reputation, finances, job and even freedom are risked and at times sacrificed to that destructive god.

What can a person do if they come to see that they are in reality just as much prey as they are predator?

Acknowledging their predicament and owning their urges and behavior is the first step. The second step involves removing themselves from environments where they are likely to engage in or re-enact damaging and illegal sexual fantasies and behaviors, or making arrangements so they cannot employ such behaviors.

They need to stop making more victims immediately and make themselves accountable to someone who can hold them accountable. The third step is seeking help for themselves. Getting help, no matter how much it may cost, is an infinitely better alternative than facing disgrace, prison time or suicide as a way out.

There are many ways and places that provide help for people who admit to their sexual addiction. There are information sites, such as The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health mentioned above, self-help organizations such as Sex Addicts Anonymous (; Sexaholics Anonymous (, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous ( There are also self-help groups for partners of sexual addicts. Treatment centers exist across the country (e.g., ), and many mental health providers specialize in the treatment of sexual obsession and compulsivity.

There are two foundational keys to healing and recovery. The first key is self-honesty. The second key is a sincere and intense desire to eliminate unhealthy sexual behavior and replace it with healthy relationships characterized by authenticity and genuine intimacy.

If you see some of the warning signs in your own behavior with offenders, take action as early as you can. Don’t let the false belief (delusion, really) that “I just have to be careful and I won’t get caught” cloud your judgment. The addiction cycle is working against you. “Being careful” is a diminishing boundary. The greater the risk, the greater the thrill, the greater the likelihood it will happen again and at a riskier level, and so the greater the chance that you will get found out. Realize that, admit it, get help, and STOP.

Permitting an employee who has been involved in events of this type to come forward and ask for a way out of their self-designed trap may seem impossible or unacceptable. Sexual misconduct with offenders is one of the cardinal sins of correctional work. This stacks the entire culture against the employee who may want to come forward in order to take responsibility for his/her actions and seek help. Additionally, the employee may be admitting to a felony that will change his or her life forever. The resistance to self-reporting is understandable. However we have to help increase the likelihood that self-reporting will take place as early as possible along the slippery slope. We need to have mechanisms in place to reduce the damage or prevent more of it from occurring elsewhere. And since those of you in the profession are held accountable by the public for the actions of these few who cross the line, it is to your advantage as well to help set up conditions that facilitate self-reporting—the earlier the better.

I present these ideas not to imply a widespread condition that might, if taken out of context, risk besmirching the reputation of an important team of public safety employees whose skill, motivation and courage are on display every minute of every day of the year. Rather this article was written in order to discuss an issue that is very difficult for all of us and which has caused many much hurt and much damage over the years.

Self-honesty starts with self-reflection, and that is what we want to promote. As sex addicts risked all for the satisfaction of their sexual urges, now they must risk all for their recovery. The alternative is unspeakably tragic and costly for the sex addict and for those affected by their actions.

Gregory Morton contributed to this article by weaving the technical aspects of the subject into an understanding of their implications in the correctional environment. author, Caterina Spinaris Tudor, is the Executive Director of Desert Waters Correctional Outreach (DWCO, and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Colorado. She works with correctional employees and their families, addressing the unique demands of the correctional workplace and its toll on staff and families. The mission of DWCO is to increase the occupational, personal, and family well-being of staff of all disciplines within the corrections profession.

Visit the Caterina Tudor page

State sued over prison conditions

by Bruce Rushton

Conditions at Vienna Correctional Center are something out of a Dickens novel, judging by a stomach-churning lawsuit filed earlier this month by inmates who say they live with filth, vermin and a paucity of bathrooms.

A lawyer for inmates says that prisoners at Vienna and Vandalia Correctional Center, which could be the next legal target, are living in poorer conditions than inmates in California, which has been ordered to reduce overcrowding by a federal judge.

“We are worse than California,” says Alan Mills, legal director for the Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago, which sued the state in federal court on June 13. “California is putting people in gymnasiums. But, to my knowledge, they are not putting people into basements or storage rooms.”

In addition to suing the state over conditions at Vienna Correctional Center, the Uptown People’s Law Center is considering a lawsuit over conditions at Vandalia Correctional Center, where minimum security inmates are held, Mills said. If the state doesn’t settle, lawsuits could take years to resolve, he said.

It is, Mills said, a matter of math. The inmate population has increased by 10 percent during the past two years while the state prison budget has decreased by 15 percent, he said. There is some hope in recently passed legislation that reinstitutes an early-release program for inmates who behave themselves, Mills said.

The legislature also appropriated $26 million to keep the Tamms supermax prison open. Gov. Pat Quinn says that he will close it nonetheless, and if the money is spent to expand a minimum security work camp next to the supermax, intolerable conditions might improve, Mills said.

Stacey Solano, Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said the department doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits, but health, safety and security of inmates and staff is the department’s top priority. She confirmed that Tamms will be closed, but declined to say how the department might spend money appropriated to keep the supermax open.

In the meantime, inmates are living in squalor, according to the class-action lawsuit filed on June 13 in federal court.

Nearly 1,900 prisoners are living in Vienna Correctional Center, which was built to hold 925 inmates, according to the lawsuit. While state law requires each inmate to have at least 50 square feet in cells or dormitories, inmates at Vienna have 33 square feet or less, the plaintiffs say. Inmates get three hours or less of exercise time each week, and much of their time is spent on bunks crammed 18 inches apart, so close that a prisoner can reach out and touch the person sleeping next to them.

Rather than fix broken windows, the state has boarded them up, depriving inmates of natural light and fresh air. Mice, rats, millipedes, cockroaches and other vermin run free, and food contains rodent feces and mold, according to the plaintiffs.

“Prisoners find cockroaches in their coffee cups, drinking glasses and toothbrushes and feel cockroaches crawl across them while they lie in their bunks,” the plaintiffs say. “The men often have to physically sweep cockroaches off of their mattresses and remove cockroach feces from their pillows and clothing.”

A converted administration building that is home to 600 inmates has seven toilets, two urinals, seven sinks and seven showers.

“To make matters worse, some of these toilets and sinks often do not function or drain properly due to leaking or clogged pipes,” the plaintiffs say. “Rust-colored water comes out of these few sinks, which the prisoners use to brush their teeth, wash their faces and ‘clean’ their dishes. Broken toilets are left filled with feces, sometimes for weeks.”

Mold is rampant.

“It grows along the walls and ceilings, in the light fixtures, around the sinks and drinking fountains, in the showers and behind the toilets,” the plaintiffs say. “The mold on the ceiling and in the showers sometimes grows so thick that it breaks off and falls on the prisoners while they are sleeping in their bunks or showering.”

Just five guards watch over the 600 inmates who live in the converted administration building.

“Because there are so many prisoners and so few officers, the officers are frequently unaware of the fights that occur in the dormitories and when the officers are aware, they often let the inmates fight it out, intervening only after the fight is finished in order to issue disciplinary citations,” plaintiffs say.

The conditions described in the lawsuit are confirmed in a report by the John Howard Association, a Chicago-based prison reform group that visited the prison last fall. The visitors smelled sewage and found inmates dodging rust-colored water that dripped from bathroom ceilings. Prisoners said they were given just five minutes to eat meals. Hundreds of inmates with nothing to do simply paced or huddled around a small television.

“A Vienna staff member seemed to recognize the stunned look on our faces,” the report’s author wrote. “‘This is a nightmare,’ he said quietly to one of JHA’s staff. ‘This should not be.’”

Contact Bruce Rushton at

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