03/28/2012

SPLC Demands Orleans Parish Sheriff Protect Transsexual Prisoner Raped at Prison

SPLC letter details gang rape, failure to protect inmate

The Southern Poverty Law Center has demanded that the Orleans Parish sheriff in Louisiana immediately take steps to protect a transsexual inmate who has been repeatedly raped and tortured at the Orleans Parish Prison or face a federal lawsuit.

The demand was made in a letter sent to Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman today. It details the violent sexual abuse endured by S.T., a transsexual woman who was gang-raped at knifepoint by five men in one facility for 40 minutes. The Feb. 27 attack occurred was witnessed by other prisoners. Guards failed to protect S.T.

The letter demands that the sheriff transfer S.T. to a safe, secure location where deputies can keep constant watch on her. It also demands that the sheriff provide her with access to a phone at all times, so that she can speak to her counsel about her safety. If the sheriff fails to protect S.T., the SPLC will file suit and seek a temporary restraining order to have her transferred out of the sheriff’s custody.

“All of the jail buildings are all extremely dangerous,” said Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney of SPLC’s Louisiana office. “The facilities are full of contraband. Deputies provide dangerously deficient supervision and fail to protect individuals who are particularly vulnerable to abuse. These violations resulted in our client being raped for weeks.”

Days after the Feb. 27 attack, S.T. was moved to another building at the prison, where she was raped repeatedly by another prisoner over the course of two weeks. The attacks escalated in severity and frequency, with her attacker breaking one of her teeth and attempting to strangle her. Sheriff’s deputies still failed to protect her.

S.T. was finally transported to a hospital, where test results confirm she has contracted HIV, after enduring almost a month of rapes and sexual torture at the prison. She was HIV negative when she entered the prison.

Inexplicably, after the hospital visit, sheriff’s deputies attempted to return S.T. to the same area where she was repeatedly attacked by one prisoner. Her attacker remains on that floor.

Violence and rape is widely documented throughout prison — suggesting that S.T. will not be safe as long as she is in the sheriff’s custody.

Orleans Parish Prison, one of the largest jails in the country, was investigated by the United States Department of Justice in 2009. The department found alarming levels of rape and violence. The prison has also been the subject of hearings by the Prison Rape Elimination Act Commission. Recently, U.S. Federal Marshals withdrew all federal prisoners from the facility citing concerns about unlawful conditions.