With nearly 2,700 inmates, Florida’s Lowell Correctional Institution, the nation’s largest women’s prison, is rife with corruption, torment and sexual abuse, former inmates tell the Miami Herald. Inmates complain that corrections officers have spit in their faces, threatened to slam them into concrete and called them whores, bitches and porch monkeys. They say male staffers tramp through the showers, make them flash their breasts on a whim and force them to beg for basic necessities, like toilet paper, soap and sanitary napkins. Women say both male and female officers use their positions of power to pressure inmates to have sex. Women allege that sex happens in bathrooms, closets, the laundry and officers' stations. Sometimes officers take women to isolated areas in the middle of the night.
Many women comply because they feel they have no choice; others call it a matter of survival. Inmates say those who yield to the officers' demands are often shielded from abuse. They can be rewarded with soap and sanitary pads, cigarettes, drugs and money. They get free-world food, like cheeseburgers, or meager feminine accoutrements that make them feel more human, such as makeup and perfume. Inmates who don't comply say they are harassed and humiliated; they forfeit plum job and bunk assignments. Often, they are threatened with “confinement” — a separation from the general population that isolates them and tests their sanity. They can lose their belongings, and the privilege of family visits. Corrections Secretary Julie Jones acknowledged that before she took over in January, Lowell was “poorly managed'' and lacked proper leadership. She replaced the warden, fired an assistant warden and hired more than 100 new officers. She says officers are now being held accountable.