4 January 1999

Original: ENGLISH

Fifty-fifth session
Item 12 (a) of the provisional agenda



Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes
and consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, in accordance
with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1997/44


Report of the mission to the United States of America on
the issue of violence against women in state and
federal prisons



Introduction 1 - 10




A. Diversity and the lack of minimum standards 49 - 50
B. Use of instruments of restraint 51 - 54
C. Sexual misconduct 55 - 63
D. Health care 64 - 68
E. Parenting 69 - 72
F. Grievance procedures 73 - 74
G. Impunity and corrections officers 75 - 77
H. Private Industry 78
I. Privatization of prisons 79

A. California 80 - 115
B. Georgia 116 - 144
C. Michigan 145 - 151
D. Minnesota 152 - 169
E. New York and Connecticut 170 - 187
F. Immigration and Naturalization Service 188 - 204

A. Federal level 205 - 210
B. State level 211 - 221


1. At the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, transmitted by letter dated 15 May 1998, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences visited Washington D.C. and the States of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Georgia, California, Michigan and Minnesota from 31 May to 18 June 1998 to study the issue of violence against women in the state and federal prisons in each of the states mentioned.

2. The Special Rapporteur would like to express her sincere appreciation for the cooperation and assistance extended to her by the Government of the United States of America. During her visit to Washington D.C., she met with high-level representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Bureau of Prisons, all of whom provided her with extensive briefings and documents. The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the support received from the Government in facilitating access to federal prisons and INS detention facilities located in the states chosen by her. At the end of her mission, the Special Rapporteur met with officials of the Federal Government to brief them on the details of her visit. The Special Rapporteur also met members of the United States Senate concerned with the issues affecting women in prisons and would like to take the opportunity to thank them for their valuable support.

3. During her visit, the Special Rapporteur also met with state authorities. In New York, she met the Director of Women’s Programs of the New York State Governor’s Office, and the Adviser to the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations; in Atlanta, the Special Rapporteur met with the Director of Women’s and Juvenile Services of the Georgia Department of Corrections. In Minnesota, the Special Rapporteur had a very useful meeting with the State Commissioner for the Department of Corrections and his Deputy, the Assistant Commissioner of the Community Services Division, the Assistant Commissioner Institution Division, the Human Resource Manager, the Warden of the Minnesota Correctional Facility (Shakopee), the Director of Planning for Female Offenders as well as the Planner for Juvenile Female Offenders. The Special Rapporteur wishes to thank state authorities for their availability and cooperation with her visit. A list of principal persons consulted is annexed to the present report.

4. The Special Rapporteur is also grateful to the Regional Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Washington D.C., for the valuable information it provided in connection with the mission. The information provided was very useful in assisting the Special Rapporteur in carrying out her mission.

5. In addition, the Special Rapporteur had the opportunity to meet with several individuals and organizations independent from the Government, including formerly incarcerated women, lawyers representing prison inmates, university professors and other experts on the issue of violence against women. She also met with representatives of non-governmental organizations, (see annex).

6. The Special Rapporteur wishes to thank the International Human Rights Law Group in Washington D.C. for the preliminary information provided to her in preparation for her mission, as well as for the organization of a round table on “Women in Prisons” held at the Washington College of Law on 1 June 1998. Further, she would like to express her gratitude to Human Rights Watch in New York for their assistance and information in preparation for her visit.

7. During her visit to selected federal and state prisons and INS detention facilities, the Special Rapporteur met with authorities at: Bayview Correctional Facility and Varick Street INS Facility (New York City); Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (New York State); Danbury Federal Correctional Institute (Connecticut); Elizabeth INS Facility (New Jersey); Pulaski State Prison and Washington State Prison and Metro State Prison in Atlanta (southern Georgia); Valley State Prison for Women, the Central California Women's Facility and Dublin Federal Correctional Institution (California); and Shakopee Women’s Correctional Facility (Minnesota). The Special Rapporteur wishes to express her appreciation for her reception by the prison authorities.

8. During her visit to prison and detention centres, the Special Rapporteur took testimonies of 44 women in prisons (including victims of violence) and also of 10 corrections officers. The Special Rapporteur would like to express her thanks to all the women who agreed to relate their personal experiences, which enabled her to have a deeper understanding of the problems arising in prisons for women in the United States.

9. Despite prior agreements with representatives of correction institutions in Virginia and Michigan, it was not possible for the Special Rapporteur to visit prisons in those two s. Before going to Virginia, the Special Rapporteur was informed that the warden of Goochland State Prison in Richmond was unable to receive her, as he was travelling abroad. Moreover, on the eve of her visit to Michigan, the Special Rapporteur received a letter dated 12 June 1998 from the Governor of Michigan informing her that she would not be allowed to meet state representatives or to visit any of the women’s prisons, despite having made extensive preparations for her visit with representatives of the Michigan Department of Corrections. The Special Rapporteur found this refusal particularly disturbing since she had received very serious allegations of sexual misconduct occurring at Florence Crane Women's Facility and Camp Branch Facility for Women in Coldwater, Michigan, as well as at Scott Correctional Facility for Women in Plymouth, Michigan.

10. The present report is intended as a case-study to complement the Special Rapporteur's previous report on violence against women perpetrated and/or condoned by the State, presented to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-fourth session (E/CN.4/1998/54). The Special Rapporteur chose the United States of America because of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by male corrections officers in United States prisons which had been received, and also because of the several existing programmes and activities, both at federal and state levels, to prevent and combat violence in women’s prisons. It is from the practical experience of such initiatives that the Special Rapporteur hoped to gain a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of violence against women in prisons and detention facilities and of the effective measures to eliminate such violence. The Special Rapporteur also studied issues concerning access to health care and parenting/family programmes for incarcerated women and sought to evaluate positive initiatives undertaken by prison authorities to address the issues of violence against women in prisons.


11. Twenty-six-year-old K. came from a predominantly upper-middle-class white family in Virginia. She went to college and fell in love with a young man in the community against the wishes of her parents. She was impressed by his clothes, cars and commanding presence and the attention he paid to her. He was extremely abusive, at times beating her with his hands, a belt and a brush. According to court psychologists she was suffering from classic battered women syndrome. She was young and naive and was resigned to the fact that her new boyfriend was involved in the cocaine trade. At times she carried weapons and money for him, but never cocaine. When her boyfriend realized that he was being investigated, he took K. and went to Atlanta and then to Seattle. From Seattle he sent her home, asking her to leave him. He was later found shot dead in his Seattle apartment. When she went home, she was indicted, and though she was a non-violent and a first-time offender, because of the mandatory sentencing guidelines in Virginia she was sentenced to 24 years in prison. She was pregnant at the time and held in a county jail. When she went into labour she was shackled while being transported to the public hospital and shackled after the baby was born. She spent two days with the baby, after which he was taken away from her. He now lives with her parents. Her life revolves around his visits to the penitentiary.

12. The video cameras of the Michigan Department of Corrections captured this scene: T., a young prisoner in her twenties, attempted to commit suicide. For this act she was put in administrative segregation (i.e. solitary confinement) for 20 days. During that time, she was put in four-point restraints: her hands and feet were shackled to the bed. She was naked for much of the time and was allowed to shower only once a week. Male corrections officers walked up and down and frequently peered into her room. At one point, she pleaded that the light be turned off so that she could sleep. She continued her pleading until the corrections officers warned her that she would be tear-gassed if she continued to protest. She continued nevertheless and a corrections officer held a tear-gas canister to her face and sprayed her. The guards fled because the tear gas was affecting them. She was stunned for a short while and then called for a towel to wipe her face. A compassionate female corrections officer brought her a towel.

13. V. is a 32-year-old from Long Beach, California. She was placed in the Dublin penitentiary for dealing in drugs by telephone. She was given an 8˝-year sentence. Two months after she entered the facility, she was put in administrative segregation for pushing a unit manager. As a result, she was targeted. Soon after she was put in administrative segregation, she and five other women were taken by the captain and put in cells in the wing for male prisoners. The women’s cell doors were kept open and male prisoners came in and raped the women. One woman was badly sodomized. V. alleges that the corrections officers were paid $50 by the offending male prisoners. After she was raped the first time, V. stayed up for 21 consecutive nights, sitting against her door so that it would not open easily. She was later moved to the Danbury prison in Connecticut, far away from her family. She joined the other women and brought a lawsuit against the Dublin prison authorities, which resulted in an out-of-court settlement. V. is deeply traumatized. She finds it very difficult to sleep at night, and the sound of the keys that male corrections officers carry makes her shake with fear. She does not eat in the canteen because she finds that the pat searches conducted by male corrections officers extremely disturbing. Fortunately, there is a mental health officer at Danbury who is working with V. to help her overcome her trauma.


14. Wherever the Special Rapporteur went, officials asked her why she decided to visit the United States. She explained that based on information received from diverse sources, she was convinced that there were serious issues of custodial sexual misconduct in United States prisons that had to be investigated. Many felt nevertheless that special rapporteurs should concentrate on crisis situations around the world rather than focus on countries where human rights protection is more or less ensured. The Special Rapporteur maintains that the notion that human rights protections are only for societies that are in crisis should be contested. Human rights protections are not only applicable during emergencies, but are also required in societies perceived to be crisis-free. Although the United States has a comparatively high level of political freedom, some aspects of its criminal justice system pose fundamental human rights questions. Other special rapporteurs have also stressed this point.

15. A recent report based on Department of Justice statistics points out that the United States has the largest number of prisoners of any country in the world and that women constituted 6.3 per cent of the prison population in 1995. / Human Rights Watch, All Too Familiar - Sexual Abuse of Women in United States State prisons, Human Rights Watch, New York, 1996, p. 16./ According to a briefing paper produced by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the percentage of women in federal prisons in 1998 was 7 per cent. / Federal Bureau of Prisons, briefing paper prepared for the Special Rapporteur, 1998./ The small number masks the rapid rise in the number of women incarcerated since the 1980s. According to the same report, the number of women entering the United States state and federal prison system between 1980 and 1994 increased by 386 per cent. In 1980 the number of women in prison nationwide stood at 12,331. By 1990 that number had grown to 43,000. By 1994 the population of women was 64,403. / Steven R. Donziger (ed.), The Real War on Crime, Harper Collins, New York, 1996, p. 147./ Though men predominate in large numbers, women are the fastest growing category of prisoners nationwide. / Ibid., p. 146./ In the 1980s taxpayers financed the construction of 34 prisons for women compared with only 7 in the 1960s. / Ibid., p. 146./

16. Drug-related offences accounted for a 55 per cent increase in the female prison population. African American women, who account for 14.5 per cent of the general population, make up 52 per cent of the overall female prison population / Human Rights Watch, op. cit., p. 15./ and in federal prisons, 39 per cent. / Federal Bureau of prisons, op. cit./ Sixty-eight per cent of the women in federal prisons are there because of drug-related offences. / Ibid./ Eighty per cent of incarcerated women have at least one child and the majority are not visited by their children. / Human Rights Watch, op. cit., p. 18./ The percentage of women prisoners in state prisons for violent offences in 1991 was 32.2 per cent; the vast majority were incarcerated for non-violent offences. / Donziger, op. cit., p. 149./ In addition, a majority of women imprisoned for the killing of someone close to them had committed the killing while they were being abused. / Ibid., p. 150./ Eighty-five per cent of women in United States prisons have been physically or sexually abused at some time in their lives. / Information provided by New York State Governor’s office./

17. The statistics confirm the Special Rapporteur’s own observations with regard to the framework of violence against women in United States prisons. The United States is criminalizing a large segment of its population; this segment is overwhelmingly composed of poor persons of colour and is increasingly female. This criminalization leads to overcrowding in prisons. The Special Rapporteur believes that this situation not only arises from, but also may result in unequal protection. People with a criminal record may in some states be denied welfare, housing, custodial rights to their children and access to social services. The Special Rapporteur also believes that many of the drug-related offences for which women are incarcerated in the United States may be more appropriately handled by a community-based system of welfare and social support, as is presently the case in certain European countries.

18. As indicated, the primary reason why such a large number of women are in prison is drugs. The Special Rapporteur came across many cases in her interviews with prisoners that illustrated the callousness with which drug laws were applied. A “mule” in drug parlance is a courier who carries drugs. A recent study of drug mules in New York points out that the overwhelming majority (96 per cent) of women interviewed for drug smuggling, charged with A-1 drug felonies and sentenced to life imprisonment under New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, had no prior criminal record. / Tracy Huling “Women Drug Couriers” in Criminal Justice, vol. 9, No. 4, 1995, p. 14./ Many were unaware that they were carrying drugs; often the parcel they were carrying was called “a gift for a friend”. Others had been coerced by abusive boyfriends; their lives and the lives of their children had been threatened. The case of K. outlined above is representative of such cases.

19. Another woman, L., was being abused by her husband in California. She went to Florida to stay with a friend to contemplate divorce and how to get custody of her child. While in Florida she answered the phone and delivered a message to her friend’s husband, who was a drug dealer. As a result of this phone call she is now in a federal prison for 15 years and has lost custody of her daughter. She will be repatriated to her native Nicaragua after she serves her term. The husband of her friend got off lightly because he was able to trade material assistance and information for a lesser sentence.

20. It is the Special Rapporteur’s belief that there should be a policy review of the impact of drug laws on women, especially “mules”. A recent report concludes that there have been discussions in state legislatures on reviewing legislation with regard to mules. Such discussions should be encouraged and a thorough national review of the process may highlight the inequalities in the legislation with regard to women. This may be an important area of study for the President's Inter-Agency Council on Women set up to review policies on women.

21. With regard to women who are substance abusers, community-based substance abuse programmes appear to be underutilized. Many of the women in prison alleged that there was a double standard in sentencing for drug offences: wealthy women were more likely to be sent for rehabilitation, whereas poor women were sent to prison. Perceptions of inequality in sentencing might be removed if community-based mechanisms are made available to and utilized by women facing drug-related criminal charges.

22. The Correctional Association of New York has prepared an extensive document on the treatment of women drug couriers under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. They argue that the laws should be changed to allow judges more discretion in sentencing to prevent the re-victimization of women who fall victim to drug traffickers. The court should have the power to consider mitigating circumstances and the character or the criminal histories of those convicted of drug offences. / Correctional Association of New York, Injustice will be Done -Women Drug Couriers and The Rockefeller Drug Laws, New York, February 1992./

23. The other group of women being unreasonably criminalized is the mentally ill women imprisoned in many of the facilities visited by the Special Rapporteur. According to the authorities in Dublin penitentiary, a survey of the inmates in the prison, by a Ph.D student from UCLA, revealed that 65 per cent of the women were suffering from some form of mental illness. The Special Rapporteur was repeatedly told that recently implemented mental health policies resulting in the deinstitutionalization of many mentally ill patients had contributed to increases in the imprisonment of the mentally ill. Mentally ill prisoners share rooms and facilities with the general population of women. The Special Rapporteur was informed that many of these women are given excessive dosages of psychotropic drugs.

24. Although the links between mental health policies and the imprisonment of women were beyond the scope of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, credible evidence suggests that there is an urgent need to review the impact of current mental health policy on the criminalization of women. Such a review, at the federal level, could be undertaken by either the Inter-Agency Council on Women or the Violence against Women Division of the Department of Justice. States should also investigate such links.

25. One of the major factors determining whether a woman is sent to jail is her race. Other special rapporteurs have also written about this bias in the United States Criminal justice system. / See the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on his mission to the United States of America (E/CN.4/1998/68/Add.3)./ Almost one in three young Black men in the age group 20-29 is under criminal justice supervision on any given day. In recent years, the number of African American women entering the criminal justice system has increased the most of all demographic groups, rising by 78 per cent from 1989 to 1994. / Marc Mauer and Tracy Huling, “Young Black Americans and the Criminal Justice System Five Years Later”, unpublished briefing paper, on file with the Special Rapporteur./ The number of Black women incarcerated in state prisons for drug-related offences increased more than eightfold (828 per cent) from 1986 to 1991. / Ibid., p. 1./ African Americans and Hispanics constitute close to 90 per cent of the offenders sentenced to state prisons for drug possession. / Ibid., p. 2./ In addition, there is a clear indiction that the proportion of Hispanic inmates has doubled since 1980. / Ibid., p. 6./

26. The statistics confirm the impression received by the Special Rapporteur that some aspects of the administration of justice impact disproportionately on minorities and raise serious questions of discrimination on the grounds of race within the criminal justice system. Discrimination is graphically illustrated by the disparities between sentences for use of crack cocaine and chemical cocaine: possession of 1 gram of crack in certain states results in a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, whereas possession of 500 grams of chemical cocaine carries the same punishment. Since chemical cocaine is more expensive and tends to be a middle class drug that is dealt, bought and used in the privacy of middle class homes, those who buy, sell and use chemical cocaine are less likely to be apprehended. When they are arrested, sentencing guidelines institutionalize the disparity by treating chemical cocaine possession less harshly than possession of crack. Not only has the “War on Drugs” targeted the more easily identifiable offenders, i.e. those who sell, purchase and use drugs in a more public manner such as on the streets or in crack houses, the severity of sentences with regard to crack leads to the disparate punishment of the poor. Due to the intersections between race and poverty in the United States, the poor are overwhelmingly persons of colour. According to one report, not one white offender has been convicted for a crack offence in the federal courts in the Los Angeles area since 1986. / Ibid., p. 10./ The disproportionate levels of arrests and prosecutions of people of colour for certain offences was highlighted repeatedly throughout the mission.

27. The disproportionate number of African Americans in prison, including African American women, raises issues of equal protection in the administration of criminal justice in the United States. In addition, inmates in some prisons complained of racial discrimination. Many of the new prisons are located in poor, rural areas where the population is predominantly white. The inmates in these prisons are mainly African American or Hispanic. This racial tension sometimes appears to result in racial discrimination. Some of the corrections officers in a rural prison in California are said to use racial slurs to refer to African American inmates. Furthermore, many of the prisoners interviewed argued that with regard to work assignments within prisons, white inmates were given clerical posts while the black inmates were given more menial tasks.

28. The disparities experienced by the African American community in the United States and their large numbers within the criminal justice system does not appear to have resulted in any comprehensive policy discussion of racial discrimination in the United States either at the state or federal level. The Special Rapporteur did not receive any indication that any federal body was concerned with the issue of why African Americans are in prisons in such large numbers and what could be done to alleviate the situation. Although there is a national dialogue on race, no federal agency has been entrusted with the task of studying the intersections between race, poverty and criminalization in greater detail and providing recommendations for possible avenues of redress.

29. The Special Rapporteur was informed, in some prisons, that at least two thirds of female inmates have been sexually or physically abused in the past. Violence against women should be an important policy concern for prison authorities and federal and state agencies. Many women are in prison for killing their abusive partners. Except for the federal prison in Danbury, which had an excellent programme called the Bridge Programme, none of the other prisons had programmes to deal with the problem of domestic violence. Given the large proportion of inmates who have been victims of violence, such programmes should be more widespread both in federal and state prisons.

30. The other policy question that it is important to analyse is the triumph of the “punishment” ideology over rehabilitation in many of the states visited by the Special Rapporteur. Except for Minnesota, where the Special Rapporteur was pleasantly surprised at the emphasis on rehabilitation in the criminal justice programmes, the Special Rapporteur found that the recent trend in prison management highlights the punishment aspect of imprisonment. “Done the Crime, Do the Time” was a slogan repeated to the Special Rapporteur numerous times. The Special Rapporteur also found a certain militarization of the prison compound in certain states. While the prisons built in earlier eras looked like college campuses, present prison construction appears to highlight barbed wire, surveillance and constant monitoring. The recently constructed INS detention centre in Elizabeth, New Jersey, is a case in point, as are the new prisons in Georgia and California. At Metro State Prison in Georgia, inmates were compelled to stand straight and salute the warden whenever he passed. In addition, many of the corrections officers had a military background, which added to the impression that the military model was the preferred pattern of prison management.

31. The “punishment” ideology is also reflected in the new wave of mandatory sentencing for certain offences. Judges with whom the Special Rapporteur spoke were emphatic that they would never have handed down certain sentences, particularly to women with children, if not for mandatory sentencing. The “no mercy” factor with regard to some of these offences has resulted not only in the overcrowding of prisons, but also the separation of mothers from their children, many of whom have been put into foster care.

32. The emphasis on punishment is also reflected in the near universal cutback in services within prisons over the last few years. Given the fact that many of the people in United States prisons are in need of support services for, inter alia, substance abuse, mental health or domestic violence, the cutback of welfare services is problematical. In Michigan, for example, reportedly all parenting programmes that allowed mothers to have access to their children have been closed down. Likewise in New York the Special Rapporteur was informed that many programmes had been cut back and that some are able to continue only with the assistance of private funders and Christian charities.

33. The primary recourse pursued by prisoners is to bring suit before the federal courts for mistreatment. The passage of the Prison Reform Litigation Act (PRLA) is an attempt to limit prisoners' access to such recourse. Many activists have queried whether it is constitutional. Signed into law in 1996, the PRLA invalidates any settlement that does not have an explicit finding or statement of a violation of a federal statute or the Constitution. Further, the PRLA terminates any court order against unlawful prison conditions after two years. The PRLA also restricts court-ordered attorney’s fees without which the attorneys would not be able to pursue cases brought to protect the rights of prisoners.

34. These approaches to “punishment” were clearly not the case in Minnesota, where the women’s prison the Special Rapporteur visited did not have barbed wire or fences, and where there were imaginative programmes to occupy prisoners' time. The philosophy spelt out for us by the Minnesota Department of Corrections was that rehabilitation was the prime element of their approach to the criminal justice system. In addition, they were experimenting with alternatives to imprisonment including home monitoring with the use of satellites. They also had innovative programmes such as a restorative justice programme in which victims and offenders meet each other along with a trained mediator. Minnesota also has halfway houses for inmates who are about to be released from prison to ease their re-entry into civilian life.


35. International standards with regard to the treatment of prisoners are set out in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Prisoners in 1955 and approved by the Economic and Social Council by its resolutions 663C (XXIV) of 31 July 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of 13 May 1977. Although the Rules are not binding on s, they set out international standards for the treatment of prisoners based on consensus and practice.

36. The basic principle of the Rules is non-discrimination. According to rule 6, all rules “shall be applied impartially. There shall be no discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.

37. With regard to the treatment of women, the Rules are very clear. Rule 8 (a) states that “[m]en and women shall so far as possible be detained in separate institutions; in an institution which receives both men and women the whole of the premises allocated to women shall be entirely separate”. Rule 53 is even more explicit: paragraph 2 states that “[n]o male member of the staff shall enter the part of the institution set aside for women unless accompanied by a woman officer”. Further, paragraph 3, “[w]omen prisoners shall be attended and supervised only by women officers. This does not, however, preclude male members of the staff, particularly doctors and teachers, from carrying out their professional duties ...”.

38. There are other provisions that are relevant for the present study. Rule 9 (1), for example, states, “[w]here sleeping accommodation is in individual cells or rooms, each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell or room by himself. If for special reasons, such as temporary overcrowding, it becomes necessary for the central prison administration to make an exception to this rule, it is not desirable to have two prisoners in a cell or a room”.

39. With regard to health services, it is stated in rule 22 (1) that “[a]t every institution there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry”. According to rule 23 (1), “[i]n women’s institutions there shall be special accommodation for all necessary prenatal and post-natal care and treatment. Arrangements shall be made wherever practicable for children to be born in a hospital outside the institution. If a child is born in prison, this fact shall not be mentioned in the birth certificate”. Rule 23 (2) states that “[w]here nursing infants are allowed to remain in the institutions with their mothers, provision shall be made for a nursery staffed by qualified persons ...”.

40. Rule 33 states that [i]nstruments of restraint, “such as handcuffs, chains, irons and straightjackets, shall never be applied as a punishment. Furthermore, chains or irons shall not be used as restraints ...”.

41. Rule 35 recognizes the right of prisoners to be informed about their rights and grievance procedures and to make a request or complaint without censorship to the central prison administration, the judicial authority or other proper authorities. Rule 46 sets out guidelines for the hiring of corrections officers and calls for a “careful selection” and proper training of the personnel not only when they join, but also during their service. The Rules also suggest that prisoners be given work, but that the “organization and methods of work in the institutions shall resemble as closely as possible those of similar work outside institutions, so as to prepare prisoners for the conditions of normal occupational life” (rule 72 (i)). Also, rule 77 provides for setting up education programmes for inmates integrated, so far as practicable, with the education system of the country.

42. The Rules also stipulate that “[p]ersons who are found to be insane shall not be detained in prison” and that “those who suffer from other mental diseases or abnormalities shall be observed and treated in specialized institutions under medical management” (rule 82).

43. The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners is augmented by the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 45/111 of 14 December 1996. The Principles are based on the premise that “[a]ll prisoners shall be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings”. They also point out that all prisoners retain their fundamental rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as all other rights as spelled out in international conventions and declarations. In addition to the Standard Minimum Rules and the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, the General Assembly also adopted, in its resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988, the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.

44. Additionally, the United States has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It has, however, claimed that the provisions of the conventions are “non-self-executing”. This means that, unless there is enabling legislation, no one can bring an action in the United States courts. The Human Rights Committee, in its General Comment 16 on article 17 (right to privacy), argued that “[s]o far as personal and body search is concerned, effective measures should ensure that such searches are carried out in a manner consistent with the dignity of the person who is being searched. Persons being subjected to body search by State officials, or medical personnel acting at the request of the State, should only be examined by persons of the same sex” (see HRI/GEN/1/Rev.3, part I).

45. Under United States law, the constitutional provisions that are invoked to vindicate prisoners’ rights are the Eighth Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. Although the Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and inhuman punishment”, it has been interpreted quite narrowly by United States courts. To prove a violation, one must not only prove the injury, but also the intent of the person inflicting such injury. With regard to women prisoners, a 1994 Supreme Court decision held that the Eighth Amendment is violated when an officer with deliberate indifference exposes an inmate to a substantial risk of sexual assault. / Farmer v. Brennand, 114 S. Ct. 1970 (1994)./ In a decision of the ninth circuit federal court, it was held that subjecting women with a history of sexual abuse to pat searches by men could constitute cruel and inhuman punishment. / Jordon v. Gardner, 986 F.2nd 1521 (9th circ. 1993)./

46. The question whether prisoners have a right to privacy under the United States Constitution has not been clearly decided. In Hudson v. Palmer, the Supreme Court held that prisoners do not have reasonable expectation of privacy, but in another case, the Court argued that convicted prisoners do not forfeit constitutional protections merely because they are prisoners. / Human Rights Watch, op. cit., p. 29./ So while the international standards clearly state that a prisoner does not give up his/her civil liberties, including the right to privacy, upon conviction, the United States courts have not made a final determination on this matter.

47. The United States is a federal system and the states are responsible for their own criminal laws, prisons and prisoner legislation. It is seen as an affair of government devolved upon state authorities. However, the United States Department of Justice can enforce national standards based on statutory authority. Under Title 18, sections 241 and 242, of the United States Code, they can proceed under the criminal law for violating a prisoner’s right and convict individual officers. They have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a right has been violated and that there was a specific intent on the part of the official to deny the person his rights. It is extremely rare that prosecutions take place under this law.

48. The more popular civil provision is the Civil Rights of Individual Persons Act. This law, passed in 1980, allows the Federal Government to bring suit against state institutions for violating constitutional rights. The standards for intervention are quite high. The Department of Justice must have reasonable cause to believe that the state is involved in a set of practices where there are “egregious or flagrant conditions” that violate constitutional provisions. The Department of Justice receives information from diverse sources and when it deems that it has a sufficient body of information, it begins investigations. According to the briefing paper prepared by the Department, it investigated 246 jails, prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, mental health facilities and nursing homes from 1980 to September 1996. Currently they are investigating women’s prisons in Arizona and Michigan. Even though the Michigan State government refused them access, the Department is going ahead. When the Department investigates, its attorneys and consultants visit the establishments, conduct interviews with the inmates, tour the facilities and, if conditions are “egregious or flagrant”, it will write to the state, summarizing its findings and setting out the steps that need to be taken. If there is no action by the State within 49 days, they may institute legal action against the State for constitutional violations. In their discussions with the Special Rapporteur, members of the Department of Justice said that, owing to limited resources, the Department could not be as active as it would like to.


A. Diversity and the lack of minimum standards

49. The first finding that the Special Rapporteur would like to highlight is the extraordinary diversity of conditions in United States prisons. The Special Rapporteur was astonished that the prisons that she saw on video in Michigan and the prison that she toured in Minnesota were in the same country. Diversity is an important part of federalism in the United States context; however, there is diversity even within the states. Officials at Valley State Prison in California told the Special Rapporteur that many of the charges of sexual misconduct were frivolous, while across the street, in the Central California Women’s Facility, sensitization training on sexual misconduct was being vigorously pursued. Further, 10 cases involving sexual misconduct had been prosecuted, leading to a conviction in one case. Although criminal prosecution was not successful in the other cases, the services of the accused were terminated. In Georgia, the Special Rapporteur was informed that there were 159 counties and that there was no uniformity within the state in terms of policing and correctional institutions.

50. There is a need to develop minimum standards with regard to state practices in women’s prisons, especially in the area of sexual misconduct. The Special Rapporteur therefore welcomes the initiative taken by Andie Moss and the National Institute of Corrections and their plan for training state, local and federal correctional agencies in the area of sexual misconduct.

B. Use of instruments of restraint

51. In addition to the lack of minimum standards, the Special Rapporteur discovered the use of practices that contravened the Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners. Rule 33 states clearly that instruments of restraint should not be used as punishment and that chains or irons should never be used as restraints. The Special Rapporteur was informed that there were large-scale violations of this provision in United States prisons. Reportedly, women refugees and asylum seekers coming into the United States are, in many cases, shackled at the airport even when there is no criminal sanction against them. In INS detention centres, prisoners are taken to their interviews in leg-irons.

52. Convicts may be restrained in certain circumstances. The case of T. in Michigan was described above (para. 12). Amnesty International reports that mentally disturbed prisoners have been bound, spreadeagled on boards for prolonged periods without proper medical authorization. / Amnesty International, United States of America - Rights for All, AI Index AMR/51/35/98, 1998, p. 65./ According to Amnesty International, there are no nationally binding minimum standards regarding the use of restraints in the United States.

53. Women in labour are also shackled during transport to hospital and soon after the baby is born. The Special Rapporteur heard of one case where shackles were kept on even during delivery.

54. The use of these instruments violates international standards and may be said to constitute cruel and unusual practices. Some States, such as Minnesota, have abandoned the use of four-point restraints and instead use a “chair” with a straightjacket. In some cases, the chair is only used with the presence of a round-the-clock nurse. The chair can be abused and Amnesty International has chronicled these abuses in detail. / Ibid, p. 67./ The use of gas and chemical sprays, such as shown on video to the Special Rapporteur in Michigan, and electroshock devices is also widespread in the United States. The abuse of restraints is of major concern to the Special Rapporteur. Many NGOs gave her evidence of such practices and she was able to see some of them on video in Michigan. The use of restraints without medical supervision and for prolonged periods is a clear violation of international standards.

C. Sexual misconduct

55. The Special Rapporteur interviewed women who had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse in practically all the facilities except in Minnesota. Sexual misconduct covers a whole range of abusive sexual practices in the context of custody. Rape does occur, but it is a fairly rare phenomenon. The more common types of sexual misconduct are sex in return for favours or consensual sex. Given the power imbalance inherent in prison/prisoner relationships and the hierarchy within the prison, relationships between prison guards and prisoners corrupt the prison environment and tend to exploit the women. Sanctioned sexual harassment, i.e. women being pat-frisked by men and monitored in their rooms and in the showers by male corrections officers, is also prevalent. A woman who was housed in a Michigan prison said that 1985, when the prison system began allowing men to guard women in women’s prisons, was the turning point; after that sexual misconduct accelerated.

56. From the literature received by the Special Rapporteur and from discussions she had in the United States, it is clear that sexual misconduct by male corrections officers against women inmates is widespread. National mobilization by prisoners' groups and the prisoners themselves seems to have led to fresh and innovative attempts to deal with the problem. Although the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners requires that women prisoners be supervised only by women officers, the Supreme Court has deemed such a standard as unconstitutional under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the equal employment opportunity statute. Accordingly, it was found that the employment and career opportunities of female corrections officers would be curtailed if such a standard were implemented since there are only a small number of women’s prisons. As a result, the United States continues to have male corrections officers supervising women prisoners. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has also expressed concern about male prison officers guarding women in United States prisons. / Official Records of the General Assembly, Fiftieth Session, Supplement No. 40 (A/50/40), vol. I, paras. 285, 299./

57. The presence of male corrections officers in housing units and elsewhere creates a situation in which sexual misconduct is more pervasive than if women were guarded by female officers. Although there have been cases of sexual misconduct on the part of female corrections officers, such cases were the exception rather than the rule. Corrections officers told the Special Rapporteur that men were necessary in women’s prisons because they provided positive male role models. They argued that the key to success was in the professionalism of the officers and not their gender. They also said that the presence of women in male correctional institutions has a calming effect on the men. They argued that the prison should be seen as a microcosm of society, with both males and females providing good role models. In response, the Special Rapporteur would point to the prevalence in United States society of violence against women generally, and sexual violence specifically, which raises particular worries about the use of male guards in female facilities.

58. The Special Rapporteur found that the reality in women's prisons failed to match the ideal described above. One of the many cases she heard about was that concerning prisoner S. who, in 1995, was cleaning the back stairs of the compound when officer X. grabbed and fondled her and kissed her. After that, he insisted on regular sexual encounters in different parts of the prison compound, and she complied because she was too frightened to refuse. She performed all the sexual acts that he demanded. In February 1996, when she tried to break off the relationship, he threatened her and threatened her daughter. She therefore continued. Finally, the FBI, with the cooperation of S., began investigations against the officer and subsequently had him removed.

59. Though sexual misconduct remains a serious problem in United States women's prisons, recent court cases and awareness-raising campaigns have resulted in some encouraging changes, especially in the State of Georgia. The warden at Bedford in New York informed the Special Rapporteur of the increased understanding of the issues, which has reportedly led to positive changes. The Federal Government prohibits sexual intercourse or sexual contact with a prisoner by a prison employee. Under Title 18 of United States Code, section 2241, sexual intercourse by the use or threatened use of force is a felony with the maximum penalty being life imprisonment. Section 2243 prohibits consensual sexual contact between a person in custodial, supervisory or disciplinary authority and the person supervised. According to Human Rights Watch, 27 states and the District of Columbia have expressly criminalized sexual intercourse with, or sexual touching of a prisoner by prison staff. These developments took place in the 1990s after many complaints had been made by prisoners and NGOs interested in prisoners’ rights. The Prevention of Custodial Sexual Assault by Correctional Staff is a bill currently being discussed in the Congress; it would provide funds to state governments for setting up prevention programmes with regard to custodial sexual assault, including the maintenance of databases.

60. The State of Georgia has set up procedures to deal with sexual misconduct which may be relevant elsewhere. The development of these procedures was a response to the Cason v. Seckinger case in which 10 women, identified only as Jane Does, brought a class-action suit complaining of rape, sexual assault, coerced sexual activity, involuntary abortions and retaliation. The shocking revelations forced the court and the Department of Corrections to make sweeping changes. First, they closed the prison and created new prisons for the women. They argued that only women should guard women, but this was successfully opposed by trade unions. They created gender-specific posts and ordered that men entering the women’s housing units had to announce themselves. There are notices all over the prison citing the Cason case and demanding compliance.

61. Corrections officers have to sign statements that they agree with the Cason conditions. Staff failing to report sexual misconduct may also be punished. A special unit has been set up in the Georgia Department of Corrections to deal exclusively with allegations of sexual misconduct. If the allegations are found to be true, the unit will terminate the person's contract and turn the case over to the prosecutor’s office. Pre-screening of corrections officers has been introduced to assess their behaviour in this regard. Corrections officers are now given eight hours of training on sexual misconduct and eight hours of training on sexual harassment. All inmates in Georgia prisons interviewed by the Special Rapporteur told her that after Cason, they had seen a welcome change with regard to the attitude of corrections officers.

62. Georgia's response in this case was commendable. Unfortunately, no figures in respect to the number of individuals terminated or prosecuted could be provided to the Special Rapporteur. The NGOs welcomed the reforms instituted after Cason; they reported, however, that although the framework was now in place, action was not being taken. Women rarely come forward since they fear retaliation; further, women ask, who would believe a felon? Nevertheless, the reorganization in Georgia as a direct result of the Cason class action suit was unique.

63. Though the Cason provisions address unwanted sexual advances, there remains the problem of the right of women prisoners to privacy. The Special Rapporteur’s visit and discussions with women in prisons all over the country have convinced her that the presence of male corrections officers in women's housing units is a direct violation of the right to privacy. The modesty panels on showers and shower curtains in some prisons are inadequate to ensure privacy. Women complained to the Special Rapporteur that they were watched in the toilet, in the showers and while they were undressing. They reported that the male presence was extremely intrusive. In addition, in most of the prisons, men reportedly pat-frisk the women, while women guards conducted strip-searches. In Connecticut, women inmates reported that they don’t go to the cafeteria to avoid being pat-frisked by male guards. Many inmates reported that they felt that pat-frisks by men were very intrusive.

D. Health care

64. Women prisoners in many cases have distinct health-care needs, particularly in light of the high levels of pre-incarceration violence experienced by many of them. As pointed out in the briefing paper on the subject prepared for the Special Rapporteur by David Chavkin of American University Law School, unlike young men, women in the age group 18-40 clearly have special medical needs. The mere replication of health services provided for male prisoners is therefore not adequate.

65. Violence against women, especially sexual violence, has numerous short-and long-term reproductive health consequences for women. As such, women prisoners represent a high-risk group for reproductive health problems. Practically all the women interviewed complained of deficiencies in obstetrical and gynaecological services. In most of the prisons visited by the Special Rapporteur, the gynaecological consultant came only once a week, which was seen by the women to be inadequate. The Special Rapporteur was told of women who were denied reproductive health services such as abortion in States where abortion is legal. The Special Rapporteur was also told that Pap smears and manual breast examinations were not regularly performed. The briefing paper stated that women prisoners had an enhanced risk of reproductive system cancers and similar diseases.

66. Of the prisons visited by the Special Rapporteur, only Danbury, a federal penitentiary in Connecticut, has programmes to address the needs of victim-survivors of violence against women. Due to the prevalence of violence in the lives of women prisoners, women's prisons may require a gender-specific framework for health care which emphasizes reproductive health, mental illness, substance abuse and counselling for victims of physical and sexual abuse.

67. In many of the facilities visited by the Special Rapporteur, there was a woeful lack of care for women with mental illnesses. Except for Bedford Hills in New York, none of the prisons was equipped to deal with large-scale mental health problems. In light of recent trends towards deinstitutionalization, women with mental illnesses are increasingly being found in prisons. This makes the lack of such services particularly problematic. Furthermore, mentally ill women are at high risk of sexual abuse in custodial settings. Consequently, it is imperative that prisons have adequate facilities to meet the needs and ensure the protection of such women.

68. The Special Rapporteur heard complaints, especially in the State of California, about unequal treatment of patients with terminal illnesses. Professor Chavkin's paper documents cases of AIDS victims being shackled to their infirmary beds or their wheelchairs. In Chowchilla, no autopsies are performed on AIDS victims.

E. Parenting

69. Despite the fact that the overwhelming number of women in prisons are mothers, there is no consistency among the states and even within institutions in dealing with this issue. Georgia does not encourage bonding between an inmate and her child, since officials believe that such a bond is not in the best interests of the child. Georgia prefers to put the child in foster care. However, Pulaski State Prison in Georgia has a dynamic warden; Pulaski has a children’s centre and is attempting to arrange transport for children to visit their mothers. Although in other prisons in Georgia, basic visiting rights are permitted and nurseries are provided, there were no creative programmes that encouraged mother-child bonding. The same was true in California and Michigan.

70. Bedford, New York and Minnesota, on the other hand, encourage the link between mother and child with creative programmes. In Bedford, children are transported once a week to visit their mothers. There are trailer units where some inmates can spend time, including weekends, with their children. There is a programme whereby mothers can record themselves reading a children’s story and the cassette sent to the child. There is also a programme on long-distance mothering to help inmates with children cope with their problems. However, it must be recognised that these programmes are run by private Christian charities and are not a part of government policy. In Minnesota, weekend visits are also encouraged and there are separate apartments where inmates can spend a longer time with their children.

71. One of the most difficult problems attendant upon putting mothers in jail is the destruction of the family unit. The foster care option may lead to the permanent break-up of the family. For many inmates, children are a life-sustaining force. To break that bond is punishment of the worst kind. The location of many prisons in some cases prevents visitation by children who cannot afford to visit at regular intervals.

72. When one mother was arrested, her son went berserk. At the time, he was 12 years old. He ended up in a juvenile penitentiary with 71 charges, from burglary to grand larceny, against him. By September 1997, he was one of the most wanted men in America. A minister brought him into a rehabilitation programme. He is now a leading athlete and member of the Olympic team. Explaining his early life of crime, he said, “I wanted my mama. When she was taken in, I had nothing to live for”. The effect of large-scale incarceration of African American women is having a major impact on the African American family. Research and analysis in this regard should be pursued. The Special Rapporteur was quite moved, in speaking to many of the inmates, by the importance they placed on their children. It is necessary to develop parenting programmes in prisons throughout the United States along the lines of those started in New York and Minnesota.

F. Grievance procedures

73. In each institution the Special Rapporteur visited, she asked staff as well as inmates, about the grievance procedure within the institution. With the exceptions of Minnesota and Georgia (after Cason), no states have grievance procedures that rely on outside monitoring. Most grievances are addressed within the institution, with a great deal of discretion vested in the warden. Many grievances are dealt with through informal counselling by the officers within the institution, with the assistance of the warden. The Special Rapporteur feels that in situations of a captive population, the need for outside review cannot be underestimated.

74. Most of the inmates said that they had no faith in internal grievance procedures. They were also afraid of retaliation. If someone brings a charge of sexual misconduct against an officer, she is usually removed to administrative segregation or solitary confinement, allegedly “for her own protection”. Such segregation is experienced as punitive. Additionally, many inmates reported that staff in the administrative segregation, out of loyalty to the accused officer, are often abusive to the inmate who has complained. It is for reasons such as this that outside review should be an essential part of the monitoring of inmates' complaints.

G. Impunity and corrections officers

75. Corrections officers and officials are reported to enjoy a high level of impunity. The Special Rapporteur was informed that in all the states visited, except for Minnesota, corrections officers had a very strong trade union with important political connections. She was told, for example, that in Michigan one of the reasons why the political institutions of government were so averse to reform was their dependency on the block vote of those involved in corrections. Prisoners, on the other hand, are not a voting constituency. This situation creates a climate of impunity and may help to explain why officers who transgress rules are more often transferred than terminated.

76. The training of corrections officers is an essential part of any strategy to combat impunity. The National Institute of Corrections, created in 1974 to provide direct services in the field of corrections, has developed an excellent training programme under the guidance of Ms. Andie Moss. It is still uncertain how states will respond to this programme. Perhaps the Federal Government can provide some sort of incentive to states to request training of their staff, especially in the area of sexual misconduct. In their interviews with the Special Rapporteur some corrections officers who had undergone training seemed very well informed of what action they should take in cases of sexual misconduct, while others were less sure, even in Georgia where extensive training has begun in response to the Cason decision.

77. Another relevant aspect is that in many states there is no pre-screening and corrections officers are hired with only minimum qualifications. Given the fact that they will be guarding a captive population, they should be pre-screened, especially with regard to histories of violence.

H. Private industry

78. In all the federal prisons and some of the state prisons, labour is performed by the prison population. In the case of federal prisons, inmates work in industries whose output is absorbed by the Federal Government. In some states, including Minnesota, the Special Rapporteur found private garment and computer industries involved in the prisons. Although such work gives prisoners some pocket money, their salaries are far below the minimum wage and it has implications for economic and social rights, particularly of women. Such activity also affects the comparative advantage of those industries that do not rely on prison labour. If private industry is to use prison labour it should conform to minimum wage requirements and ensure that the wages are received by the inmates themselves.

I. Privatization of prisons

79. The privatization of prisons raises particular concerns for the safety and well-being of prisoners in general, and of women prisoners in particular. The only private facility visited by the Special Rapporteur was the INS facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The emphasis of the facility seemed to be on security more than anything else, despite the fact that many inmates were not violent offenders. Rather, many of the inmates were immigrants in the country illegally and awaiting deportation. There were no projects for the women and no programmes. Most of the women spent their time sleeping, since there was very little activity. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that private prisons will not provide the humanitarian and rehabilitation programmes that are now essential aspects of prison life. If privatization is to be allowed, there must be strict guidelines and oversight so that the profit motive does not interfere with health and medical services, education, training and cultural programmes for inmates.


A. California

80. In California, the Special Rapporteur visited the California Correctional Women's Facility (CCWF) and Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) in Chowchilla, California. The Special Rapporteur strongly regretted that she was not able to interview the specific women prisoners she had requested to meet and that she was not allowed to visit the Security Housing Unit at VSPW despite prior assurances that she would be able to visit the prison grounds freely. The Special Rapporteur had clearly indicated in her letter to the California Department of Corrections in May 1998 that she would like to interview women prisoners during her visit. In addition, the California prison authorities refused to discuss openly with her the allegations of mistreatment and abuse at CCWF and VSPW which are reflected in this report.

81. The Special Rapporteur has learned that Mr. Kuykendall, warden of VSPW, has, since her visit, been “walked off the grounds” and suspended from his duties pending an investigation into financial mismanagement. This incident underlines the Special Rapporteur's strong belief that qualified personnel with a sufficient degree of professionalism are required for any effective correctional system.

82. At the Central California Women's Facility, CCWF, the Special Rapporteur was informed upon arrival that not all prison grounds would be available for inspection due to a bomb scare on the premises the day before and that she would not be allowed to speak to the women prisoners whose names she had provided to the warden in advance. The Special Rapporteur is dismayed at this lack of cooperation extended to her by the CCWF management which prohibited her from gathering all necessary information to evaluate the situation objectively.

83. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the attitude of the California correctional authorities seems largely to be that reflected in the 1977 revision to section 3000 of the California Penal Code which expressly changed the objective of prisons from “rehabilitation and punishment” to “punishment” only. In addition, the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offences in California courts (as well as in federal courts) is clearly the reason why 70 per cent of the women in California prisons are incarcerated for non-violent offences. Previously, women with children were granted extended probationary sentences in order to avoid separation from their families. At the same time, mandatory sentencing statutes like the “Three Strikes” rule, which imposes a 25-year-to-life sentence for people already convicted of three felonies, are further increasing the number of women in prisons. The increasing harshness of the political climate is further reflected in the fact that, of the $21,000 per prisoner per year spent in California, approximately $11,000 (or 52 per cent) is for security measures, approximately $3,125 (or 14 per cent) for health care and only some $900 (or 4.5 per cent) for education and training. / “CDC Facts”, publication of the California Department of Corrections, Communications Office, 1 May 1998./

84. According to information received from NGOs, the guards' or corrections officers union is one of the strongest political forces in the State of California, while the California Department of Corrections is the biggest government agency in the State with increasing power to influence local elections and state legislation. The Special Rapporteur is concerned at this disproportionately influential role of those concerned with prison management in California, especially where this is to the detriment of prison conditions in the state.

85. California has the largest number of women incarcerated in the United States. At VSPW, there were 3,350 women at the time of the Special Rapporteur's visit, of whom approximately 30 per cent were White, 30 per cent were African American, 30 per cent were Hispanic and 10 per cent were women of other ethnic origins. Their average age was between 30 and 33 years. The average sentence of the women at VSPW was approximately three years, mostly for drug-related and other non-violent crimes. Of the 350 corrections officers at VSPW, only 30 per cent are female. The majority of officers are White; only 18 per cent are Hispanic and 12 per cent African American.

86. CCWF has a prison population of 3,597, of whom 40 per cent are African American, 30 per cent are Hispanic, 20 per cent are White and the rest are of other ethnic origins; 60 per cent of the general population are detained under minimum security and have been committed for mainly drug-related, non-violent crimes for an average duration of 3˝ to 4 years. There are 360 correctional officers, of whom some 30 per cent are female; 20 per cent are African American and 20 per cent are Hispanic.

87. California appears to have inadequate administrative or penal protection against sexual misconduct in custody. This is compounded by the fact that the California Department of Corrections has no comprehensive procedures for reporting or investigating allegations of sexual abuse in its facilities. Sexual misconduct in custody was criminalized only in 1994. The Special Rapporteur observed that prison management at CCWF and VSPW still used the term “overfamiliarity” to refer to acts of sexual abuse, harassment and assault. The Special Rapporteur feels the use of this euphemism obscures the serious nature of the acts concerned.

88. The State of California prohibits sexual intercourse between prison staff and prisoners, the first violation constituting a misdemeanour and the second, a felony. Title 15 of the California Director’s Rules Governing the Department of Corrections and the Treatment of Prisoners vaguely refers to the prohibition of “personal transactions with prisoners, parolees and their relatives” / Human Rights Watch, op. cit., p. 21./ In this connection, the Special Rapporteur’s attention was drawn to an initiative taken by the warden of CCWF in a memo to all prison staff dated 24 July 1995, which attempted to clarify these legal caveats by spelling out her expectations concerning relations between staff and prisoners, in particular relating to unauthorized physical contact, verbal or written communications or involvement with inmates or parolees.

89. With regard to grievance procedures for sexual misconduct, the Special Rapporteur was informed that under section 3084 of the California Administrative Code, prisoners may complain about “any departmental decision, action, condition or policy perceived by the prisoner as adversely affecting their welfare”. To report a grievance, inmates may fill out a special form, report in writing directly to the Investigative Officer, or notify any staff member at the facility of their concern. Staff members are required to report any grievances brought to their attention to the Investigative Officer, who informs the warden or deputy warden. The allegations are subsequently investigated, confidentially and internally. The Office of Internal Affairs of the California Department of Corrections also may decide that a given investigation should be carried out by an independent investigator. The warden stated that allegations relating to sexual misconduct that are proven conclusively have led to a significant number of terminations of service of prison staff. He was also of the opinion that the grievance procedure was not normally used by prisoners for false purposes or “to get back at someone”. The failure by staff to inform prison management of any allegations was punished accordingly.

90. Corrections officers receive eight weeks of basic training, which includes a component on sexual misconduct procedures, as well as on “overfamiliarity” issues. In addition, the California Department of Corrections provides for annual refresher training which includes two hours of training on “overfamiliarity”. The Special Rapporteur considers this training to be inadequate for the purposes of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, abuse and rape; the two-hour refresher training on “overfamiliarity” does not seem to nearly suffice to cover these concerns in detail.

91. The Special Rapporteur was informed that at VSPW pat-frisks are carried out by male and female corrections officers, whilst strip-searches are only carried out by same-sex officers. In view of the large number of women at VSPW, female officers should be actively recruited in order to ensure that both strip- and pat-searches are carried out solely by females. The Special Rapporteur was able to confirm allegations that in the receiving area at VSPW, strip-searches are carried out in a big room with large windows, enabling male corrections officers to watch. It was also alleged that cross-gender teams are used for strip-searching, the male corrections officers restraining the woman prisoners whilst the search is carried out by a female officer.

92. At CCWF, the Special Rapporteur was also informed that pat-searches were carried out by both male and female officers and that strip-searches were mostly carried out by same-sex officers “except in emergencies”. The Special Rapporteur considers that this exception is open to abuse and that stricter criteria for same-sex searches should be established in order to minimize the potential for abuse. CCWF prison management acknowledged that cross-gender guarding certainly created problems and that there were too few female corrections officers. He referred to a case that had occurred in 1996 when a female inmate assigned to porter duty was repeatedly taken into a closet by a male corrections officer who exposed himself to her. He was subsequently dismissed.

93. With regard to privacy issues at CCWF, the Special Rapporteur, during her visit of the housing units, was concerned that there were no shower curtains, but only so-called “modesty doors” or panels in the showers, which were located in the middle of the housing unit, immediately in front of the desk of corrections officers, most of whom were male. The structure of the housing units at CCWF also lends itself to invasion of privacy by officers on duty.

94. With regard to sexual misconduct at CCWF, the deputy warden informed the Special Rapporteur that prison management vigorously pursued all allegations of sexual misconduct and that there had been 10 major cases, only one of which had resulted in a conviction. Most cases resulted in termination of the staff involved. The grievance procedures consist of a formal appeals system at four levels, namely, informally to the staff, to the appeals' coordinator, to the warden or directly to the Director of the California Department of Corrections. An in-house investigative unit had been established to look into allegations of misconduct.

95. With regard to allegations of inhuman conditions in the Special Housing Units at VSPW, the Special Rapporteur received information from California Prison Focus, a non-governmental organization which started to investigate complaints of women in the units in 1995 that they were continuously exposed to light for days; that the noise level, caused by the screaming of the mentally ill inmates held in the same cellblock, was unbearable; that fights occurring in the courtyard were stopped by the guards by shooting rubber or wooden bullets. In one incident, a prisoner's ear was shot off and her neck injured. Bean-bag bullets were tested, but a woman was severely injured and left to bleed for five days, as a result of which she is permanently disfigured. Bean-bag bullets have not been used since.

96. The Special Rapporteur is seriously disturbed by allegations concerning the lack of privacy in the Units. Women prisoners interviewed by representatives of California Prison Focus in the week prior to the Special Rapporteur's visit alleged continuing sexual abuse and harassment, in particular by male corrections officers in the “shower bubble”. A group of women prisoners had previously filed a group grievance about the fact that they were not allowed to take towels into the showers, which are only covered by modesty panels. The grievance also alleged that officers on duty were able to observe the women in the showers from the control booth in the Units, which is 10 feet off the ground. The Special Rapporteur was informed that in reply to the grievance the prison management simply stated that, based on an evaluation of the shower situation, the modesty panels were considered to respect privacy and that the request for female guards in the control booth was denied.

97. In addition to the shower area, the pervasive invasion of privacy in the bathrooms was brought to the Special Rapporteur’s attention. Officers sitting on the wall of the bathroom have an unobstructed view of women sitting on the toilets, which the Special Rapporteur considers intolerable, unacceptable and unnecessarily intimidating and humiliating.

98. All the women prisoners from the Units who were interviewed mentioned in particular one corrections officer called Pierre. It was alleged that Pierre, with the acquiescence or sometimes active participation of other officers, made sexually explicit comments to the women, rubbed his genitals against women when they were handcuffed and pressed his genitals against the windows or food holes of the cell doors, saying “this is what bitches like and I am going to stick it up your ass”. One woman alleged that she had filed a grievance against one of Pierre's colleagues, a female officer, and that she had subsequently retracted her claim because Pierre had retaliated by breaking all her personal belongings, tearing her photographs and destroying her earphones. The Special Rapporteur also received information that Pierre is allegedly a member of the Black Gorilla Family, and sometimes threatens and targets women prisoners who are known to be members of rival gangs.

99. It was also alleged that women in the Units live in constant fear of rape and that although strip-searches are carried out by female officers, male guards are often present and subsequently discuss the women's bodies in public in the cells and the housing units. Some women reported having sexual relations with corrections officers assigned to the Units who were suspended from duty but later returned on posts amongst the general prison population.

100. Another serious concern which was drawn to the attention of the Special Rapporteur is that, unlike in Georgia, the CDOC has no maximum limitation of the detention period in administrative segregation. This is particularly disconcerting since it is reported that many women are placed in administrative segregation for unlimited periods for having resisted sexually invasive pat-frisks.

101. The Special Rapporteur has a general concern with regard to health services in California correctional facilities. Also unlike Georgia, medical staff in California prisons are employed by the Department of Corrections and not by the public health authorities. In an increasingly conservative prison management climate in the state, where more and more resources are being spent on security, health services are neglected and budget cuts have adversely affected inmates' health.

102. In 1995, a class-action lawsuit, Shumate v. Wilson, was filed on behalf of all the women incarcerated at CCWF and at the California Institution for Women, alleging that the medical care provided to women at both prisons was so seriously deficient as to constitute routine denial of the prisoners' right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment, as provided by the Constitution. The suit alleged that the state seriously endangered women prisoners by, inter alia, limiting sick calls, using unqualified medical personnel to screen inmates seeking medical attention; denying medical care because of its cost; breaking confidentiality requirements and failing to provide appropriate chronic care management. Relief was sought from the state for “knowing and deliberately indifferent failure to provide necessary medical care for serious medical needs”.

103. Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a San Francisco-based non-governmental organization, began receiving letters from women inmates at CCWF in 1990, almost as soon as it opened. Many of these complaints were used in the Shumate case, including the case of leading plaintiff Charisse Shumate. Shumate has sickle-cell anaemia, heart problems and hypertension and was not provided with consistent medical care at CCWF; she lapsed regularly into a crisis situation and had to be rushed to the community hospital for emergency care. Another plaintiff who had entered CCWF with severe burns on over 54 per cent of her body gradually lost mobility in her limbs because she was denied the use of special bandages which would have prevented her burnt skin from tightening. A 38-year-old woman with HIV was tested when being held at a county jail. Upon arrival at CCWF she was confined to lock-up for nearly two months until her diagnosis was confirmed. In lock-up, the plaintiff complained of illness for 10 days until she fell into a coma. She was not examined once during those 10 days. After lapsing into a coma she was diagnosed with meningitis. One woman prisoner had complained of lumps in her breasts for a long period, in different facilities. It was only after one of the lumps had started to protrude from under her skin, 10 years after she had first signalled her concerns to prison medical staff, that a biopsy was carried out. Her cancerous breast was removed and one year thereafter her other breast had to be removed as well.

104. These are only few of the cases that provoked Shumate which were brought to the Special Rapporteur's attention and which deeply concern her.

105. In July 1997, the parties to the lawsuit reached a settlement under the terms of which an independent assessment team would scrutinize the health-care system at the prisons for at least eight months. Under the settlement, the California Department of Corrections did not admit to any charges but agreed to fulfil certain requirements, including: making timely referrals to doctors for patients needing urgent care; prohibiting untrained employees from making judgements about medical care; ensuring that inmates receive necessary medication without delays; offering preventive care, including periodic physical examinations, pelvic and breast exams, Pap tests and mammographies; and protecting the privacy of medical records.

106. It concerns the Special Rapporteur that the Shumate case was one in a series of class action lawsuits brought against the California Department of Corrections in the last 10 years, all of which have alleged, and most of which have been found to be justified, that the state fails to provide adequate medical care, mental health treatment and disability access in California women's prisons. It is even more worrisome that many of the non-governmental organizations with whom the Special Rapporteur spoke were not satisfied with the improvements made after the Shumate settlement.

107. Over 400 women out of 3,350 women detained at VSPW are mental health patients on medication. These women are currently housed among the general prison population, but a departmental discussion was going on at the time the Special Rapporteur's visit about whether to segregate them. In the Special Housing Units at VSPW, it was alleged that over 50 per cent of the 54 women detained there at the time of the Special Rapporteur's visit were taking psychotropic medication.

108. At any given time, there are approximately 100-175 pregnant women prisoners at VSPW. The medical staff of the facility consists of 70 health-care professionals, including three gynaecologists, one obstetrics nurse, one practitioner with a gynaecological/obstetrics background, one resident general surgeon, a plastic surgeon, an orthopaedic surgeon and three additional physicians, as well as six full-time dentists. The average case load per counsellor is 100. The warden confirmed to the Special Rapporteur that it was state policy to shackle women prisoners to their beds in the community hospital before and after they give birth, and said that pre- and post-natal care were provided.

109. The medical clinic at CCWF has two medical technical assistants, one nurse and two dental staff. The Special Rapporteur was concerned that there was only one resident physician and one gynaecologist for a total of 3,597 inmates. There were no management personnel at the CCWF health services and it is only since the Shumate settlement that the facility has had three physicians on staff. Information received by the Special Rapporteur, however, alleges that conditions of medical care have not significantly improved since Shumate and that there are still two- to six-week delays in receiving medication for chronic diseases and that HIV+ women do not receive their medication systematically. Another concern which the Special Rapporteur wishes to raise is that there is no Spanish-speaking medical staff at CCWF, which is unacceptable in view of the fact that 30 per cent of the women prisoners are of Hispanic origin. In addition, the qualifications of the medical technical assistants are doubtful and there still are reportedly constant access problems to the sick-call windows. Complaints by the women are replied to with “just blame Shumate; if she'd kept her mouth shut, we would do what you want”.

110. Women, including HIV+ women, who are on medication and enter the prison, must be rediagnosed at the reception centre before they can receive further medication. Since the waiting period for a rediagnosis can take over one month, women are cut off from medication for that time. Women therefore sometimes share their medication in an effort to help out. If they are caught, however, they will be charged with the serious offence of drug dealing. In one case, it was alleged that a HIV+ woman prisoner in the infirmary got shingles and was not treated until the infection spread to her eyes; she is now blind.

111. The Special Rapporteur was informed that prison management found it difficult to keep the community programmes offered at VSPW running because most prisoners were disqualified from participating for various reasons, including violent backgrounds, extended sentences, child abuse, or for having attempted to escape. The programme for conjugal family visits, for example, provides women with minimal- to medium-duration custody and a clean disciplinary record a 72-hour visit every three months. (CCWF has five conjugal family visit units, which are available to women under similar conditions.) Programmes for battered women and for substance abusers are also offered. In addition, VSPW operates a mother-infant care programme outside the prison with room for 98 women; this programme operates in a halfway or transition house for women to facilitate their return to the community.

112. The Special Rapporteur was informed that parenting programmes had been cut at CCWF and moved to VSPW. CCWF, however, does have one new programme, a 200-bed residential therapeutic community programme for substance abusers. Women in this programme spend one half-day in programmes and one half-day in substance abuse-related rehabilitation. A programme entitled “Friends Outside” provides for a supply of books and toys for the children's play room but there are no structured activities for children and mothers.

113. Also of concern to the Special Rapporteur is that many women prisoners are assigned to the family reunification programme under which they have to appear regularly in court. With the exception of the first time, the prison management has no obligation to take the women to hearings, which often results in hearings being missed. Sometimes the notification of the hearing arrives too late. Another concern is the new tendency in the State of California to terminate the parental rights of long-term prisoners as early as possible in order to increase chances of adoption. Non-governmental organizations working with imprisoned women informed the Special Rapporteur that many foster and adoptive parents denied the child contact with his or her parents or never informed the child of the fate of his or her parents. Another inequality of the system perpetuating family break-ups is that foster care families receive $800-$900 per month for each child in their care, whereas extended families or relatives of an imprisoned parent receive only $200-$300 per child.

114. CCWF operates an adult education programme called Sierra Vista Adult School which provides both vocational and academic training, with a total of 1,120 places. In addition, special programming, including self-help groups, parenting, self-awareness and preparation for release groups, followed by a job placement programme for release, is available. The facility also has two computer laboratories with personal computers for the inmates' use. A battered women self-help group is conducted by outside community shelter workers. The educational programme on offer at CCWF seems comprehensive and practically oriented, and should serve as an example for other female correctional facilities in the country.

115. During her visit to California, the Special Rapporteur received invaluable information from a number of non-governmental organizations working with women in prisons, most of which she has incorporated in this report. The Special Rapporteur is particularly grateful to these organizations for providing her with information since she was not personally able to gather data first-hand. Two of those organizations are Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, mentioned above, which was established in 1978 to assist imprisoned parents, explore alternatives to prisons, and act on behalf of pregnant women in connection with the provision of medical services. Families with a Future is an organization created by Ida, a formerly incarcerated woman who served 10 years at Dublin Federal Correctional Institute, separated from her five children. The organization tries to put children in touch with their mothers serving long-term prison sentences. From her own experience, Ida knows that the first year after release is the hardest: the children have grown up and they are angry for having been “abandoned” by their mother. Ida's children told her that they hated going to visit her in prison when they found out that she had to go through pat- and strip-searches before and after every family visit. At a meeting with Families with a Future, the Special Rapporteur had the opportunity to listen to children with incarcerated parents and to try and understand the enormous implications that the imprisonment of a mother or a father has on the whole lifetime of a child.

B. Georgia

116. In Georgia, the Special Rapporteur met with officials of the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) and with representatives of non-governmental organizations working with women in prisons. She visited Metro State Prison in Atlanta, as well as Pulaski and Washington State Prisons in southern Georgia. The Special Rapporteur spoke with the wardens and their staff at the prisons and was able, at her request, to interview a number of female inmates, as well as corrections officers. The Special Rapporteur would like to express her appreciation to the GDOC officials who facilitated her visit and engaged in an open and constructive dialogue with her.

117. The GDOC officials with whom the Special Rapporteur spoke referred to a massive influx of female detainees in the mid- and late-1980s for which the Department’s facilities were not prepared. Similarly, the realization that female inmates might have different needs than male prisoners was slow to emerge. In addition, the increase in the number of inmates who had been previously diagnosed with mental illnesses also contributed to the circumstances that led to the neglect and overcrowding in Georgia prisons at that time, resulting in the unacceptable conditions for prisoners brought to light in Cason v. Seckinger (see paragraphs 60-63 above). (The present report will not specifically address the conditions in Georgia state prisons before Cason, especially since the 1996 Human Rights Watch report, “All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse in US State Prisons”, has addressed these concerns in great detail.)

118. As has been noted, Cason was prompted by complaints of alleged rape, sexual assault and coerced sexual activity, involuntary abortions and retaliation or threats of retaliation against women who refused to participate in sexual activities within the prison. Following Cason, the Georgia Department of Corrections was required, by federal court orders, to undergo substantive reforms, including undertaking initiatives to eliminate and prevent sexual misconduct in Georgia's correctional facilities for women. In this context, the Special Rapporteur was able to confirm that, although prior to Cason, sexual abuse and harassment were widespread in women’s prisons in Georgia, in particular at the Georgia Women’s Correctional Institution (GWCI), the situation has improved and awareness about the seriousness of sexual misconduct in prisons has greatly increased.

119. In June 1998 the prison population in Georgia consisted of approximately 37,000 men and 2,400 women, of whom two thirds were African Americans, a ratio which is disproportionate to the number of African Americans in the state's population. The majority of women in prison are uneducated (79 per cent do not have a high school diploma), unskilled, low-income, substance-abusing mothers.

120. The type of sexual misconduct that prevailed before Cason was graphically described by some of the inmates. According to Georgia criminal law, sexual contact with a person in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections has been punishable as a felony since 1983. According to section 16-6-5.1 of Georgia’s criminal code, a person commits sexual assault when “he engages in sexual contact with another person who is in the custody of the law ... or who is detained in an institution and such actor has supervisory or disciplinary authority over such other person”. “Sexual contact” is defined as “any contact for the purpose of sexual gratification of the actor with the intimate parts of a person not married to the actor” (sect. 2020.1).

121. The Cason v. Seckinger consent order In United States law, a consent order is one whose provisions have been agreed to by all the parties to an action., addressing mainly sexual misconduct, as well as physical and mental health practices, and applicable to three women’s and five men’s prisons in the state, was signed by the GDOC in March 1996. Following the consent order, the Department initiated a number of measures to improve conditions in the areas mentioned. Ms. Elovich, Director of Women’s and Juvenile Services at GDOC, told the Special Rapporteur that the Department had received clearance for its mental health services from the federal auditors in June 1998, and clearance for physical health was expected later in the year.

122. With regard to sexual misconduct, the plaintiffs' counsel was monitoring compliance by the GDOC. In particular, the standard operating procedures of the GDOC, which specifically distinguish sexual misconduct from personal dealings and define what actions constitute sexual contact, sexual abuse and sexual harassment, are an important move forward, creating a framework within which sexual misconduct in Georgia prisons can be systematically investigated.

123. The GDOC conducts an obligatory Basic Correctional Officers Training Course over a period of four to five weeks for all corrections officers, which includes a minimum of eight hours of training on sexual misconduct and additional sexual harassment training. An annual mandatory “refresher” course for corrections officers includes three hours of teaching on sexual misconduct.

124. The grievance procedure relating to sexual misconduct in Georgia women’s prisons is supervised by the Special Investigations Unit and the Women’s Services Unit of the GDOC. Since November 1994, the GDOC has an improved sexual misconduct complaints procedure under which all staff members are obliged to report any allegations of which they are aware directly to the warden. This procedure provides for new standard operating procedures (“SOP”) for investigating allegations of sexual contact, sexual abuse and sexual harassment within the prisons. The Special Rapporteur was informed that all housing units in the prisons have boxes in which grievances can be placed. In cases of sexual assault, medical staff are available to assist the victims and counselling is provided. The warden will normally refer cases pertaining to allegations of sexual abuse of women prisoners to the Director of the Women's Services Unit, who subsequently transmits them to the Special Investigations Unit. The GDOC investigators conduct interviews to determine the substance of the allegation and the case, if substantiated, is reported to the Commissioner and to the District Attorney for action. If a staff member is involved, he or she is immediately suspended from duty until a decision is reached in the case. If a staff member is found to have withheld any information concerning allegations of sexual misconduct, he or she is reprimanded in writing for failure to comply with his or her obligation to report any such information.

125. An improvement in the SOP relating to sexual misconduct is the regulation that a victim may be placed in protective administrative segregation during the investigation for a maximum of seven days. In cases where the allegation proves to be false or no evidence is found, the prisoners who filed the complaint will have a disciplinary infraction noted in their records. Within the context of the confidentiality of the grievance procedure concerned inmates are informed in writing about the process and its outcome. Officials working in the Special Investigations Unit were of the opinion that the grievance procedure is often abused by inmates “to get back” at other prisoners or prison staff. The Unit reported that they had received 131 cases of sexual misconduct in 1996, 137 in 1997 and 67 in the first half of 1998. Yet, since April 1996, only three cases had been prosecuted by the District Attorney.

126. At the time of the visit of the Special Rapporteur, there was one case of sexual assault at Pulaski State Prison, with the District Attorney's Office, allegedly involving a female-to-female assault. At Washington State Prison, it was estimated that two to three allegations of sexual misconduct were received per month; according to the warden, most of them were unsubstantiated. At the same time, however, it was considered easier and more impartial for special investigators to carry out the investigation than for prison staff to do it.

127. In response to allegations by Human Rights Watch that former employees who were dismissed for sexual misconduct have been rehired by the GDOC, the Department emphasized that all rehired employees had been acquitted before being allowed to re-enter the system. Another concern raised by Human Rights Watch and which the Special Rapporteur was able to confirm in her interviews with women prisoners, is that the Jane Does of the Cason case who are still in the system fear retaliation. In particular, the Special Rapporteur’s attention was drawn to the former Commissioner for Corrections, Bobby Whitworth, implicated in the Cason case, who had been reassigned to the Parole Board by the Governor. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the direct involvement of a person implicated in the Cason case in parole decisions could have far-reaching consequences for any of the Jane Does who come before the Board.

128. Although in Georgia cross-gender guarding is permitted by law, all pat-frisking and strip-searches are governed by same-sex regulations and all transport officer posts in female correctional institutions are reserved for females. At Metro which housed 705 female inmates at the time of the visit of the Special Rapporteur, 75 per cent of the corrections officers were female and the prison staff assured the Special Rapporteur that same-sex rules were always applied in pat-frisking and strip-searching.

129. The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned that a number of women she interviewed alleged that female corrections officers frequently touched women prisoners intrusively during the pat-searches and that sexual harassment by female officers could be as pervasive as by male guards. This is particularly disconcerting since most of the prisoners the Special Rapporteur interviewed at all prisons she visited in Georgia stated that they would avoid going to the cafeteria to eat warm meals for many weeks and months in order to avoid being intimately touched during the random pat-frisks outside the cafeteria which are carried out to prevent women from taking food to their cells. It was also alleged that some assignment details provided more room for abuse of women by corrections officers, such as the kitchen and laundry duties where women were sometimes alone with the officers. One of the women interviewed by the Special Rapporteur reported that a female corrections officer had locked her up in a closet, making comments with sexual overtones. The officer was subsequently dismissed after an investigation.

130. Most women interviewed by the Special Rapporteur stated that young women new to the criminal justice system or, at the other extreme, women with protracted or life sentences were more likely to engage in sexual relations with corrections officers in exchange for favours. The women at Metro generally complained of disrespectful treatment and verbal abuse by corrections officers, but confirmed the Special Rapporteur's findings that since 1992 incidents of sexual abuse and assault had diminished and that the prison administration was making efforts to address those issues.

131. The corrections officers whom the Special Rapporteur interviewed seemed adequately informed of the existing grievance procedures and two out of three were comfortable with reporting allegations and even rumours of sexual misconduct by their colleagues, through the appropriate channels, to the warden. (The Special Rapporteur did note the large notice boards publicizing the Cason consent order displayed in all the prisons she visited and that all corrections officers who had completed the sexual misconduct training had stickers on the back of their ID cards. Any officer without such a sticker would not be permitted to enter a women’s facility.) At the same time, the need for more workshops or training relating to sexual abuse and harassment was also raised.

132. Since the mid 1980s Georgia prisons have been receiving increasing numbers of mentally ill inmates for reasons already outlined. Many mentally ill people have been rendered homeless and engage in petty or violent crimes, and as a result move regularly in and out of the criminal justice system. As public opinion in the State does not support an increase in resources for prisons, inadequate rehabilitation and other services in correctional facilities leads to increased rates of recidivism. The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned about the seeming “criminalization” of the most vulnerable population, resulting in an increase in the number of inmates and in a deterioration of prison conditions.

133. The Special Rapporteur considers it important that there should be an enhanced understanding within the GDOC that the medical and educational requirements of women in prison are different from those of imprisoned men and that health-care programmes should be designed with these in mind. The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned that comprehensive pre-natal care is not offered to women in prisons and that women who give birth are allowed a maximum of 36 hours with their infants and must be shackled to the bed throughout their stay at the hospital, except during labour. The Special Rapporteur considers such treatment degrading and inhuman, especially in view of the fact that women prisoners are assigned security guards whilst in hospital.

134. Metro State Prison for Women in Atlanta is the central entry facility where the women entering the criminal justice system are screened for educational and vocational qualifications and given medical examinations. Metro also houses all pregnant inmates, who numbered 20 in June 1998. Metro has out-contracted to the town hospital for weekly gynaecological/obstetrical clinics.

135. Of the 705 women at Metro, 230 are being treated under the mental health programme, which covers patients at five levels of mental health diagnosis from outpatient to acute care and crisis stabilization. The Mental Health Unit also treats patients with a history of both physical and psychological abuse and women have the possibility to join groups or receive individual therapy, as well as a drug rehabilitation therapy.

136. At Washington State Prison, 20 per cent of the women prisoners have mental health counsellors and the care and treatment programme comprises courses on domestic violence (including for rape and incest survivors and battered women), parenting issues, crime victims, corrective thinking and pre-release issues. Since April 1998, Washington State Prison also offers special six-week PSAP (Programme for Substance Abusers in Prisons) courses during which women who are accepted to the programme live in special housing units together with counsellors. Washington State has on-site medical care for 12-18 hours a day and Pulaski State Prison is serviced by regional pharmacies and has nursery facilities.

137. Some of the women interviewed by the Special Rapporteur said that they have experienced long waiting periods for medical appointments and one woman alleged that she was not given an HIV test when she requested one.

138. At Pulaski, of the 1,108 women prisoners as of June 1998, 245 were classified as mentally ill. The Special Rapporteur is concerned about the disproportionately high percentage of such prisoners.

139. The parenting programme at Metro includes twice-weekly discussion groups to address various issues important for imprisoned women, including how to improve parent-child communication, as well as a child custody group which acts as liaison between the inmate and the community on social and legal issues and aims to protect mothers’ rights while in detention. Contact visits between mothers and children are permitted twice per month in the visitation/play area, and six major children's events are organized to bring detained mothers and their children together on family holidays. Metro does not assist with the transportation of children to see their mothers, as did some prisons which the Special Rapporteur visited, which certainly poses a difficulty for many women whose children have no means or possibility to make their own way. While the parenting programme is accessible to all women, the right to use the parenting centre and its facilities may be suspended for 90 days in case of a serious disciplinary violation.

140. At Washington State Prison, the parenting programme is a nine-month programme addressing how to deal with particular family histories, the developmental stages of children and parenting methods, including legal issues relating to care givers. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the programme is limited to 75 per three-month section for a total prison population in June 1998 of 856, of whom over 90 per cent were mothers.

141. At Pulaski State Prison, over 95 per cent of the women are mothers, most of them single parents, with an average of three children. In addition to a similar parenting programme, the Division of Social Services has given Pulaski a grant to subsidize transportation for children to see their mothers once a month.

142. The Special Rapporteur had a particularly fruitful discussion with two of the very few women activists in this field in Georgia who have founded non-governmental organizations for women in prison and their children. Donna Hubbard, the Executive Director of Revelation Seed Workshop, spent seven years in prison herself, has seven children and is a recovering drug addict. Her story illustrates that the correctional system is only equipped to address the problems, not the symptoms, of women in crisis. Georgia spends an average of $5,200 per inmate per year on security, and only $1,300 for rehabilitation. Donna herself had 29 accumulated arrests for substance abuse before being imprisoned for a longer period, without once being given drug rehabilitation treatment or a medical examination. Such situations contribute to the rising national total of women entering the criminal justice system, particularly in view of the fact that the recidivist rate is much higher for women prisoners than for men, reportedly due to drug dependency.

143. Revelation Seed Workshop provides for the first community contact that women have when released from prison, helping them to meet their basic needs and develop their future. The staff of the Workshop are all formerly incarcerated women of different backgrounds, helping to build a community network for women in prison in order for them to have support when they are released. The organization has also established a “transition centre” with places for five women who are provided with housing, a mentor and a structured life outside prison, including health and medical services, courses on how to conduct themselves at an interview and write their résumés, and life-skills workshops. Stays are limited to six months and in the last stage the women are required to engage in 20 hours of community service, keep a journal and participate in family activities.

144. Aid to Imprisoned Mothers is a community-based organization founded 11 years ago which recognizes that, rather than punishing detained women further by withholding their children, contact with the children is an important way to reduce the number of women who return to prison. The organization emphasizes parenting programmes designed especially for the prison context and subsidies for the transportation of children to visit their mothers.

C. Michigan

145. As stated in the Introduction, on the eve of her visit to Michigan the Special Rapporteur received a letter from the Governor of Michigan cancelling her plans to meet with state representatives and her visits to women’s prisons located in Michigan. This refusal was particularly disturbing since she had received serious allegations about misconduct in Florence Crane Women’s Facility, Camp Branch facility for Women and Scott Correctional Facility for women. The Special Rapporteur nevertheless continued with her journey to Michigan and had meetings with lawyers, academics, former guards and former prisoners. She was also able to speak to some prison inmates on the phone to hear their complaints. Given the seriousness of the allegations, corroborated by diverse sources, the Special Rapporteur decided that these allegations should form part of her report despite the lack of cooperation from Michigan State authorities.

146. According to the Michigan Criminal Code, any sexual touching of a prisoner by an employee or a volunteer in the Michigan prison system is fourth-degree criminal conduct carrying a penalty upon conviction of imprisonment for two years. / Michigan Comparative Law Annotated sect. 750-520 (e) (d)./ Thirty-one women have filed a class-action suit against the Michigan Department of Corrections alleging sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual misconduct on the part of corrections officers and prison staff. They have been joined by the United States Department of Justice, which is also suing the Michigan Department of Corrections for violation of a federal statute, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. In September 1998, Human Rights Watch issued a report alleging that there was a campaign of retaliation against the women who were taking the Michigan Department of Corrections to court. / Human Rights Watch, United States - Nowhere to hide: Retaliation Against Women in Michigan State Prisons (G1002), September 1998. / Human Rights Watch alleges that:

147. The Justice Department’s investigations have corroborated these findings. In a report to the Governor of Michigan with regard to Crane and Scott Correctional Facilities, the Assistant Attorney-General argues that the constitutional rights of the prisoners have been violated. The report documents the following:

(a) There is sexual abuse by both male and female guards. Pregnancies have resulted from these activities and the authorities have punished women by revoking their parole. Nearly every inmate interviewed by the Justice Department reported various sexually aggressive acts by officers who corner inmates in cells and during work. Corrections officers are also said to expose their genitalia and make suggestive comments. Sexually suggestive comments and verbal abuse are so rife that they are treated as commonplace;

(b) Inappropriate pat-searches are conducted by corrections officers. During routine pat-searches the officers touch all parts of the women's bodies; fondling and squeezing breasts, buttocks and genital areas in a manner not justified by legitimate security needs. In addition, many searches are conducted when women are in their nightgowns in the evening;

(c) There is improper visual surveillance by the corrections officers. Many officers stand outside cells and watch prisoners undress and use the showers and toilets. Maintenance workers, in addition to corrections officers, are allowed to view women in various degrees of undress. The degree and kind of surveillance employed exceed legitimate security needs;

(d) The taking of urine samples is not according to proper procedure;

(e) The prison management has failed to provide adequate health care. There is no system to respond to medical emergencies, unqualified nurses are assigned to diagnose and treat medical problems and medications are prescribed without a professional medical examination. Inmates with specialized medical needs do not receive adequate medical care. There is also no real attempt to provide mental health services. Medical staffing is deficient at all levels. Some facilities have no full-time physician and insufficient and inadequately trained psychiatrists, nurses and medical specialists;

(f) The level of sanitation in these prisons is poor, including pest control in cooking and dining areas, inadequate ventilation, and lavatories and showers in a state of disrepair. The quantity of food served to inmates is also insufficient;

(g) There is a lack of due process in the prisons. The means of punishment and the placement of people in disciplinary segregation is arbitrary and the issuance of misconduct tickets is constantly abused by guards. Though there is a grievance procedure, the inmates have little confidence in the system and therefore rarely file grievances.

148. The findings of both the Human Rights Watch and the Justice Department corroborate what the Special Rapporteur herself heard from former inmates, former guards and prisoners who spoke to her on the phone. The Special Rapporteur was also shown a video made by the Corrections Department of a young woman who was placed in four-point restraints, a description of which appears in the first part of this report. The abuse taking place is truly shocking.

149. The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned at the retaliation that the women who had come forward to challenge their abusers were subjected to. Retaliation was not only aimed at the inmates, but also at sympathetic corrections officers. One former corrections officer who spoke with the Special Rapporteur said that she had left the Department because she tried to assist an inmate who had been abused and she was stabbed by other corrections officers. She claimed that corrections officers were shielded by a powerful union with enormous political power which allowed them to act with impunity in the State of Michigan.

150. Women who have been involved in the suit have alleged that they have been subjected to a great deal of retaliation. One of the women who spoke to the Special Rapporteur said that she had been criminally prosecuted on a trumped-up charge of substance abuse, as a result of which she has been denied visitation rights for the rest of her life and kept in punitive segregation for 275 days. Despite the suit, she alleges that she was sexually assaulted again by one of the defendants. She tried to commit suicide and was placed naked in five-point restraints without a blanket for nine hours. She was subjected to 24-hour surveillance for 29 days. She was then transferred to a different facility but was assigned to a housing unit in which the residential unit officer was also a defendant in her case. The Special Rapporteur spoke to other inmates who corroborated the allegation of retaliation against women who had decided to speak out. The security of these women is of serious concern to the Special Rapporteur.

151. Since the Special Rapporteur was denied access to the prison facilities, she is unable to discuss in detail the measures taken to combat sexual misconduct or to provide health care or parenting programmes. However, she felt that the allegations of abuse, corroborated by diverse sources, were serious enough to be placed on record.



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