Since I've been in prison I have endured more misery than most people could handle . . . . [A]ll open homosexuals are preyed upon and if they don't choose up they get chosen. (294)
M.R., a gay white inmate, entered the Arkansas prison system in early 1992, at age twenty-one. He has, in his words, "feminine characteristics," including long blond hair, that mean that in the prison environment he is "considered to be female."(295)
M.R. was placed in the general prison population when he arrived at Cummins Unit in 1992. Faced with the gangs and violence of the unit, he knew he had to find someone to protect him. Under pressure, he chose someone to "hook up" with. The relationship only lasted a few days, however, since M.R. was considered such an attractive target that his new guardian did not feel able to protect both of them.
According to M.R., "a Black guy paid an officer 2 cartons of 'Kools' to write me up so I could be moved to his block with him."(296) M.R. claims that such guard involvement is not unusual. In prison, among both guards and inmates, "money will buy anything and I do mean anything."(297) Almost immediately, the other prisoner sexually assaulted M.R., anally raping him in his cell. M.R. escaped the abuse by requesting protective custody.
Because of a severe shortage of space in the protective custody block, however, M.R. was bounced back into general population several times. Although he was transferred into other prisons, each place he went he faced harassment and sexual abuse.
In March 1995, over his strong objections, he was transferred from a protective custody block at Cummins Unit into the general prison population. As he had expected, he immediately became the target of harassment by other prisoners. One inmate in particular appeared to be after him, repeatedly threatening him with violence. Toward the end of the month M.R. had a classification hearing on his request to return to protective custody. The hearing officers demanded that he tell them exactly who was threatening him, with the warden at the hearing reportedly telling him: "'how do you expect us to investigate this matter if you don't tell us some names?'" M.R. was afraid to give any names, fearing that members of the committee would interview the inmates, and that the other inmates would know that he snitched. Despite his fear, he did name the inmates involved. Nonetheless, he was denied protective custody.
Back in general population, M.R. "was forced to live with and face these same inmates (who the Classification Committee interviewed) who all called [him] a 'snitch' and threatened [him] with bodily harm."(298) Other prisoners told him bluntly, "'you snitched on the wrong motherfuckers.'"(299) The next month, the prisoner who had previously threatened him took action. As M.R. described it:
I had no choice but to submit to being Inmate B.'s prison wife. Out of fear for my life, I submitted to sucking his dick, being fucked in my ass, and performing other duties as a woman, such as making his bed. In all reality, I was his slave, as the Officials of the Arkansas Department of Corrections under the 'color of law' did absolutely nothing.(300)
After a week of this, M.R. managed to get transferred to another cellblock, but there other prisoners continued to harass him. A month later, he was transferred back into the same cellblock with inmate B; the sexual abuse resumed. On June 3:
I was at Inmate B.'s bed and he forced me to kiss him and suck his dick. While doing this, he had his hand on my head with his fingers entwined in my hair forcing my head up and down and trying to choke me with his dick. The entire time Inmate B. was telling me "suck it bitch." At this time, CO-1 M. observed this through the outside window of the barracks. He observed this until Inmate B. ejected sperm in my mouth, then he walked in the barracks and told us both to go to the Captain's Office.
Both M.R. and inmate B. were given disciplinary violations for a "sex offense," with M.R. receiving fifteen days' punitive isolation and the loss of privileges. He was later assigned back to protective custody.
I Am The Inmate Above And Being Duly Sworn deposes and says:
On 06-12-93 I reported that I was having problems out of my work squad with General Populations Inmates and it was going back to my Living Quarters. I was excluded from U.C.C. [classification committee] and denied my Safekeeping due to insufficient evidence . . . . [On another unit] I was being forced to do sexual favors. Ive tried to tell the Infirmary. They didn't want to hear it. On 02-20-95 I was physically assaulted by several I/M which I identified to Sgt. Willis. Then I refused to be placed back on the wing which I was placed on transit, awaiting transfer to another unit. I was transferred on 3-16-95 and en route to the Huntsville Unit once off bus on Unit I was assaulted severly. Once again badly . . . . Upon arrival to Beto One Unit the Warden seen [the bruises on] my face and my body and seen that I was an admitted homosexual and placed me on Safekeeping once again . . . . Then on 10-31-95 I was placed back on Beto One on close custody general population. I had to start catching houses to pay for protection (or) I was gonna be hurt, beat up, or killed. I was forced to catch houses and sex forced on me. So on 11-07-95 I executed a request for protection and on 11-17-95 I was intervieded by Lt. James and I told him I was being forced to perform sexual acts, etc. Nothing was done then . . . . I then was moved to another wing once again after attempt of suicide . . . . My neighbor was acting as my cellie and forcing me to do sexual acts. Then a bunch of Mexicans got word I was on T Wing and sent their homeboy to hurt me while I was on T Wing. He at first sent me a letter through SSI threatening me and I told Lt. James the same night and the I/M was pulled out by Lt. James. And threatened. And the I/M told me I was dead when he could catch me. So I wrote grievance 12-29-95 and attached the threatening letter to it and was denied ANY relief whatsoever. So the guy who was fucking me every night placed shanks in my house and told me to tell the police they were there to get away from the block before I get killed. So I did this but in court pleaded not guilty was found guilty of a weapon and placed in seg even aftr the person who put them there admitted he done it on tape.(344)
1) Major J.E. Cook recommended the removal of my safekeep status 08-31-94 haveing full knowledge of my enemies in general population and the fact of me being a homosexual and the past assaults from my fellow I/M in my work squad 35 Hoe.
. . . .
10.) On 02-16-95 I reported to security that I was being forced to preform sexual act's against my will. Which I was found positive with gonnarea on 02-16-95.
11.) On 02-21-95 I executed another step one grievance stateing that I got assaulted which positively identified as A.C. [Aryan Circle] gang members. I was placed on the transit status after refusing housing in fear of my safety and being sexually assaulted again.
. . . .
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff request this HONARBLE COURT to grant the following relief:
A) Issue a declaratory Judgment that the defendants violated the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION . . . (345)
A skinny, bespectacled man, P.N. weighed 135 pounds when interviewed by Human Rights Watch in October 1998, well above the 120 pounds he weighed when he first entered prison in 1987 at age nineteen. At that time, having violated the electronic monitoring restrictions imposed on him after he was placed on probation for burglary, P.N. was sent to Beto Unit, in Texas, a prison that was notorious for its gang violence.
P.N. is gay, and acutely aware of the dangers that provokes in Texas prisons. "Homosexuality is a sin in Texas," he emphasized to a Human Rights Watch representative. "In prison it's a curse. If you're gay you really catch hell."(346) Both guards and inmates are homophobic, he believes. In 1987, on his first day in prison, P.N. was hit in the face by a Hispanic inmate named Teardrop. The next day a group of inmates stole all of his personal belongings. "At that time I was still in the closet a bit, but they saw me as weak," he said. "These black guys told me I was going to ride and pay protection. Within a month, this guy was forcing me to have sex."
P.N.'s time in prison has been marked by continual sexual pressuring, threats, and attacks. Once he had a "husband" who, he says, "took care of me," protecting him from other inmates. During another period, when he was unprotected and subject to constant threats, he cut himself up with a knife and was placed in a medical facility for a few months. At one point he had serious problems with members of the Aryan Circle, a white racist prison gang. Members of the gang wanted him to be a "patch carrier": to have his buttocks emblazoned with a tattoo advertising that he belonged to them. They too promised to protect P.N., but he would have had to "service" dozens of gang members.
P.N. is an admittedly disruptive prisoner who has had numerous disciplinary problems. On several occasions, he claims, he has purposely been caught with a weapon in order to be placed in disciplinary segregation and thereby escape threatened harm from other inmates. He has been violently assaulted several times.
In 1995, when P.N. was in the prison medical facility for self-inflicted injuries, he filed suit against the Texas prison authorities. The gravamen of his claim was that the authorities were well aware of his vulnerability to sexual assault but had failed to protect him from other prisoners. Supporting his claim were numerous grievances he had filed warning officials that he was at risk of serious harm. His case survived defendants' efforts to throw it out on a summary judgment motion, and it went to trial, but in July 1997 a jury ruled for the defendants.
I got a cellie . . . . and he said that he would protect me from [inmates who had threatened me] but I had to pay, if I didnt he would let them get me plus he would. He told his homeboy about what was going on and he's homeboy said he was going to protect me also but I had to pay . . . . August 1, when the officer [C] open the door I walked out and told him I need to speak with rank that it was very important . . . . I told him what my cellie wanted me to do. So he left me there and got rank . . . . Sgt. [D] ask me what was going on, I told him and told him that my life was in danger. He said for me to return to my cell and stand up and fight, because this was prison; if I didnt he would get a team and drag my ass back to my house. When I refused, he told [C] to put me in the holding cage. I walked to the cage on my own and went in. Sgt. [D] came back and told me to put the handcuffs on. When I told him I couldnt, he opened the cage door and told me to put the cuffs on. There with him was [C], [F], [M]. I told him if he was gonna force me that they needed to get the camera first. [C] put the handcuffs in my face and said that he was gonna get the camera after he fucked me up. He kept telling me to put the cuffs on, but I refused, because of the risk. So [D] told the officers to grab me. They grabbed me. Stunned me to the floor and began punching me in my head and kicking me in my ribs. They put the handcuffs on and by that time I looked up and a officer had a camera. Sgt. [D] ask me if I would get up on my own. I did. They took me to medical and brought me back to my cell. When they put me back in my cell, I was crying for what they done. My cellie's homeboy that said he would protect me he came over to my cell when they ran rec. My cellie was gone. He ask me what happen and what was I crying for. He ask me how I was going to pay him. I told him when I went to the store I would pay him. But he said I want to fuck. I told him that I didnt do that. He said you remember what the deal we made. So I said but I dont do that kind of stuff. So he kept saying he aint gonna take long. So he had me have anal sex with him. After that, my cellie came back from rec, he found out what his homeboy did and told me he wanted to do the same. He also made me have anal sex. The next day the same officers were working and I was scared to tell them because of what they did before . . . . My cellie told me that at last chow his homeboy wanted me to come over and stay all night in his cell. So I waited until last chow. I went an ate, when I came back there was a officer walking with all the inmates. So I let all the inmates go in and stop the officer and told him the problem . . . . He took me to see Lt Tucker. I told her what was going on, and needed to be locked up. She told me the only way that I could get locked up was if I refused housing and I would receive a case. I said I didnt care, I just needed her help. She sent me to lock up (pre-hearing detention). There I was given 15 days solitary . . . . I was pulled out and seen by Mrs. [A], Capt. [R], and Major [I]. I told my complaint and Mrs. [A] said that I was never raped that I just gave it up. Capt. [R] said that close custody was no risk, that I was well protected. I asked him how so, when I was raped plus inmates get stabbed each day. I wasnt answered. They tried to make it look as if I was asking for a transfer and not protective custody. I was denied help and sent back to my cell . . . . I took 18 pills trying to overdose. I was sent to medical and put back in my cell. From then on I began geting cases everyday to stay in solitary. Finally they got tired of me geting cases and refusing housing and placed me in segregation.(347)
When Human Rights Watch interviewed W.H., a young African American inmate with thick glasses, he was held in one of the Texas prison system's administrative segregation units. With prisoners locked twenty-three hours per day in their cells under an ultra-high security regime, the ad-seg unit is designed for the "worst of the worst": those whose violent temperaments and uncontrollable behavior make them unfit for normal prison life. W.H., a first offender incarcerated for burglary, hardly fit this model; his small size (5'4" and 126 pounds) and softspoken demeanor made the ad-seg classification even more puzzling.
Yet W.H. admitted that he was facing criminal charges for assault on a public servant: in early 1997, in another prison, he had kicked a female administrative technician. The circumstances of the crime explain much about his current situation and past troubles.
W.H. told Human Rights Watch that he was violently raped by several prisoners, including his cellmate, over a five-week period in late 1996. The rapes occurred not long after he was transferred out of a safekeeping wing where he had been held since his entry into the Texas prison system two years previously. Gang members living in the wing he was placed on began to threaten him soon after his arrival there, telling him, "you gonna ride."(440) Within two weeks, W.H.'s situation fell apart. As W.H. described in a grievance: "Gang members from the Rollin Sixty Crips has since the 10th day of Nov 1996 untill the 13th day of Nov 1996 forced them selves upon me to perform homeosexual acts with them . . . "(441) On November 13, the gang members badly beat W.H.; he was then temporarily moved to another wing.
Later that month, at a classification hearing to decide where W.H. would be housed, W.H. described the assaults and his fear for his life. The classication committee nonetheless decided to place him with the same prisoners who had previously beaten and sexually assaulted him. On his way back to the cellblock, W.H. told Human Rights Watch, he climbed a barred gate to escape being locked back in with inmates who he believed were preparing to victimize him. The warden decided to transfer him to another wing, but W.H. refused this housing assignment as well. Because of this disciplinary infraction, he received fifteen days' punitive segregation. On his release from segregation, W.H. again refused to accept assignment back to regular housing, but the sergeant reportedly told him that if he would not go to his cell voluntarily he would be dragged there. He agreed to go.
On December 6, his first day back in the cellblock, W.H. filed an emergency grievance. It concluded with the plea: "I request that I be placed in a place where I will be protected from the crule and unusal punishment that will be subject if I am left in the presense of these and other members of the Rollin Sixty Crips."
The first rape occurred that evening, W.H. told Human Rights Watch. Less than an hour after he was placed in his cell, a gang member--a larger, stronger prisoner--was moved in with him. "The dude was crazy. He talked about killing, tried to scare me," related W.H.(442) The unit was on lockdown status, with prisoners supposed to be locked in their cells, but they had a method of getting in and out of cells by sticking paper in the lock before the cell door closed. At about 3:00 p.m., two prisoners entered W.H.'s cell and, together with W.H.'s new cellmate, anally raped W.H.
At dinner, W.H. surreptitiously reported what had happened to him to an officer, but the officer took no action. "He didn't care," said W.H. "They're lazy; they don't want to deal with the paperwork." That night, at about 1 a.m., W.H. was raped again, this time by his cellmate and an inmate from the adjoining cell. Both prisoners belonged to the Rolling Sixty Crips.
The next day, W.H. said, his cellmate raped him again. About ten minutes after the rape, a couple of correctional officers came by on their rounds to check the locks for paper. When they opened the door to W.H.'s cell, he pushed his way out. The officers knocked him to the ground and then brought him to detention, where he reported that he had been raped.
W.H. was brought to the prison infirmary to be examined. After looking at him the nurses had him sent to an outside hospital where medical tests were done. When Human Rights Watch interviewed him, nearly two years after the rapes, W.H. said he had never received the results of those tests.
The next day, a woman officer from the Internal Affairs Department (IAD) interviewed him. W.H. signed an affidavit describing the incidents that she kept; he told Human Rights Watch that he never received a copy of it. The officer asked if he wanted to file criminal charges against the perpetrators and he said yes. But he claims that no one from IAD ever contacted him again and as far as he knows charges were never filed.
W.H. was kept in segregation until his January 2, 1997 classification hearing. There he was denied safekeeping. At first, W.H. claims, the classification committee suggested that he be placed in administrative segregation, where he would be held in a one-man cell. "They could tell that was what I wanted," said W.H.. "So the warden scratched out ad-seg and wrote in close custody general population. I flipped out."(443) That was when W.H. kicked the administrative technician, he told Human Rights Watch--knowing that this violent act would guarantee that he was kept locked up in segregation.
For W.H., breaking prison rules has become a habit. When Human Rights Watch interviewed him, he had spent over a year and a half in segregation. "I catch [disciplinary] cases purposely. I've been caught with contraband like extra sheets. I don't want to leave this unit. I'm going to do all my time here."(444) After the experiences that he has had in prison, safety is everything for W.H.; restrictive conditions are to be greatly desired. Unfortunately for him, confinement in administrative segregation carries with it a loss of good time credits. When W.H. is released, he will have served nearly every day of his seven year sentence for burglary, having accrued none of the time reductions due normal inmates.
294. Letter to Human Rights Watch, September 24, 1996.
298. M.R., Arkansas, federal civil rights complaint filed July 25, 1996.
300. M.R., Arkansas, pro se federal civil rights complaint filed July 25, 1996.
344. Affidavit, September 1, 1996.
345. Complaint, N. v. Woods, civil action filed October 3, 1995.
346. Human Rights Watch interview, Texas, October 1998.
347. Letter to Human Rights Watch, February 19, 1997.
389. Letter to Human Rights Watch, September 5, 1996.
390. Affidavit of James Agan, November 14, 1990.
391. Affidavit of Philip Bagley, December 6, 1990.
392. Letter to Human Rights Watch, September 5, 1996.
393. Florida House of Representatives, Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Management Oversight of the House Committee on Corrections, Probation and Parole, Final Report, October 1980, p. 4.
395. The officer continued: "[E]verybody that is willing to tell the truth knows this to be the truth and the man doesn't have any chance at all unless he's willing to fight . . . . [Unless he has friends to protect him,] why he'll get raped within the first 24 to 48 hours. That's about standard." Another officer explained: "A young, slim, slender kid, probably his first time in an institution like that, after he's been there two or three days, he's bound to get raped." Several officers used the words "a daily occurrence" when asked about the frequency of rape in their facility. Ibid.
440. Human Rights Watch interview, Texas, October 1998. The expression "ride," in Texas prisons, means to pay protection money or sexual favors or both to another inmate.
441. Inmate Grievance Form, December 4, 1996. The grievance concluded: "I fear for my life here on [this unit] and request that I be placed in ad seg protective custody for my own protection. Thank you! Your prompt response to this matter would be greatly appreciated."
442. Human Rights Watch interview, Texas, October 1998.