The federal Bureau of Prisons is facing demands to investigate conditions for women at its facilities, following reports that 14 females were systematically abused at a Florida facility.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for an investigation into the “abhorrent” allegations, The Miami Herald reports.
A lawsuit filed last week on behalf of 14 women, ranging in age from 30 to 56, who claimed systematic abuse, including rapes at the Coleman Federal Corrections Complex women’s work camp.
The suit is seeking compensation and prison improvements. Seven of the woman, who are suing not as “Jane Does” but under their true names, are still incarcerated.
The litigation and subsequent fallout, comes at a time when the Bureau of Prisons has faced intense scrutiny over its handling of Jeffrey Epstein, who was found hanged in his cell Aug 10 at a time when he was likely the nation’s most high-profile detainee.
The allegations first appeared in an investigation by the Herald of conditions faced by women at Florida facilities. An earlier story exposed abuses at Lowell Correctional, the largest women’s prison in the nation.
The Herald story “reveals that the environment at FCC Coleman has enabled systemic and pervasive sexual abuse and misuse of authority by BOP employees over a number of years,” Rubio wrote.
“These allegations are simply abhorrent, and I urge you to take immediate action to ensure such behavior is neither happening, nor tolerated, at FCC Coleman or any other BOP facility.”
During an oversight hearing of the Federal Bureau of Prisons that focused on Epstein’s death as well as broader problems, Florida Sen. Lindsey Graham commented, “…there has got to be either a major malfunction of the system or a criminal enterprise afoot to allow this to happen.”
The lawsuit primarily focuses on Coleman Federal Prison Camp, which is located in North Florida’s Sumter County near Wildwood, and houses 500 woman. It is a satellite facility, part of a much Coleman complex that in total holds roughly 6,000 inmates, most of them men.
The complaint outlines in striking detail the coercion, threats and sexual abuse the woman suffered at the hands of correctional officers, who control all aspects of their lives. One described an officer forcing one of the woman to perform oral sex.
Another woman said she was taken to a remote trailer and assaulted by an officer. During the attack he said, “You know they’ve accused me before of rape, but they’re never going to believe you.”
Additional Reading: Justice Reform in Florida