In recent years, there has been increased awareness
regarding the issue of inmate sexual abuse in California. While it’s an issue throughout correctional facilities in California, it’s become especially prevalent in California’s women’s prisons. Like all other inmates in California, female inmates have certain rights and protections under the law–despite their incarceration.
When female inmates are subjected to harsh and abusive treatment while in prison, it’s certainly a violation of their basic human rights. However, in California, inmates in these correctional facilities also have certain legal rights when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse.
Maison Law Stands Up For Victims of Sexual Abuse
No matter the context or where it occurs, sexual abuse is an extreme violation of the law. Further, sexual abuse leaves physical, emotional, and psychological trauma in its wake when it happens. For victims, understanding how to protect their rights is crucial.
At Maison Law, we proudly stand up for the rights of sexual abuse victims throughout California. Our team of experienced and dedicated California sexual abuse lawyers
can help explain your options and will be with you every step of the way as you pursue justice. Don’t wait to get the help you need, contact us
today for a free consultation.
Women Inmates in California
According to the most recent data
from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), there are currently 7,023 females in the custody of the CDCR. Of these:
- 4,005 are in custody at a CDCR institution
Five major institutions within California mainly house female inmates:
- Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)
- California Institution for Women (CIW)
- Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar (NAVCONBRIG)
- California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC)
- Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin (FCI Dublin)
In addition, there were sexual abuse cases that occurred at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), which is no longer in service. In 2012, the prison was converted to Valley State Prison (VSP), housing only “low-risk” male inmates.
Throughout these institutions, female inmates face a number of issues relating to their health and safety, such as:
- Inadequate medical care
- Inadequate nutrition
- Physical and sexual abuse
Sexual Abuse of Women Inmates in California
Again, due to a variety of factors, sexual abuse of women inmates is a glaring issue inside many of California’s prisons. Not only can the abuse take a variety of forms, but it can also occur between a number of different parties. Generally speaking, sexual abuse in women’s prisons can include any of the following:
- Non-consensual sexual contact – Probably the most common form of sexual abuse in prison is when inmates are subjected to non-consensual sexual contact by authorities. This can include groping, fondling, or other unwanted touching.
- Sexual harassment – Sexual harassment, or unwanted physical and verbal comments, gestures, propositions, or other derogatory actions is common for many inmates. Women who are incarcerated are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, as they are often in close proximity to their abusers and may lack the ability to leave the situation. They may fear retaliation or other negative consequences if they speak out against their abuser.
- Coercion – Coercion can include threats or other forms of pressure to engage in sexual activity, such as offering protection or favors in exchange for sex.
- Rape – Rape involves any type of sexual penetration that occurs without the victim’s consent.
- Sexual exploitation – When any sexual activity is forced, coerced, or manipulated for the benefit of another person, such as sexual favors in exchange for drugs or other contraband, it results in sexual exploitation. This is common in California’s prison’s since there is such a power imbalance between the inmate and authority figures.
- Voyeurism – Voyeurism involves observing or photographing another person’s intimate body parts or sexual activity without their consent.
- Sexual assault by staff members – A major issue of sexual abuse in prisons occurs when inmates are sexually assaulted by prison staff members. Not only is this illegal under California law, but it’s also a serious violation of professional ethics and standards.
Not only is sexual abuse a serious issue currently for many inmates in California’s women’s prisons, but it can have severe and long-lasting consequences well after the incident. These consequences are, unfortunately, exacerbated by other issues that arise in prisons relating to inadequate medical care. Further, not only can it occur between the inmate and corrections officers or other prison officials, but it can also occur between the inmates themselves. All of this adds to systemic issues that many inmates face.
California Law and Women Inmate Sexual Abuse
Because sexual abuse in California women’s prisons is such a prevalent issue, lawmakers have gone to great lengths to establish regulations and parameters that address it. The fact is, despite their status as convicted felons, inmates in California’s women’s prisons have certain legal rights and protections from sexual abuse under the law. These include both federal and state protections, set forth in the following:
- The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) – This federal law requires prisons to adopt and implement a range of policies and practices to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse within correctional facilities.
- California Penal Code Section 289.6 – This law makes it a felony for any person to engage in sexual activity with a person who is confined in a correctional facility. It further defines who is considered an inmate and which facilities the law applies to.
- Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations – This code sets forth specific standards for staff conduct, including rules prohibiting staff from engaging in any type of sexual activity with inmates.
These laws and policies are designed to hold staff members and other inmates accountable for any sexual abuse that occurs within California’s prisons and other correctional facilities. Furthermore, survivors of sexual abuse have the right to report incidents of abuse, receive medical and mental health care, and seek legal action against their abusers.
That said, the environment within California’s women’s prisons is often ripe for sexual abuse for all of the reasons that we’ve already covered. Thus, sexual abuse victims need to understand their legal rights under these laws and how our team of experienced sexual abuse lawyers can help them.
How A Women’s Prison Inmate Can File a Claim For Damages in California
Under the law, an inmate in one of California’s women’s prisons can pursue a claim for damages as a result of any sexual abuse they suffer. This involves filing a civil complaint in open court against the facility and the perpetrator of the abuse, which presents significant challenges. That said, by working with our team of dedicated California sexual abuse lawyers, we can make sure you receive the benefits and support you’re entitled to under the law.In a California sexual abuse claim against a correctional facility, victims can potentially recover the following if their claim is successful:
- Medical expenses, including treatment, ongoing care, bills, and therapy as a result of the sexual abuse
- Mental health services, including therapy and other care related to the psychological trauma
- Pain and suffering, or costs relating to the emotional distress and other pain and suffering caused by the abuse
- Punitive damages are further monetary compensation paid to the victim on top of other damages. This is designed to punish the institution for their egregious or negligent care and is also meant to be seen as a deterrent to future conduct.
As with any claim, the damages you’ll ultimately be awarded will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding your case, the severity of the abuse, and the impact it had on your life. Additionally, you’ll need to prove that the abuse:
- Was caused by the negligence or deliberate wrongdoing of the prison staff or other inmates.
Overall, filing a sexual abuse claim against the prison while you’re still incarcerated requires great courage and strength. By working with our team, we can make sure you have the legal support and guidance you need to make this incredibly difficult process a little easier. Ultimately, standing up for your rights is a way to make sure that future instances of sexual abuse in correctional facilities are reduced and that the perpetrators and system are held accountable.
California Women Inmates Can Rely on Maison Law
Being an inmate in a California women’s prison or other correctional facility is not easy. Part of your punishment involves lacking access to certain conveniences. However, your status as incarcerated does not mean you lack basic human rights. In fact, as an inmate, you still have protection against sexual abuse. When your prison violates your rights by subjecting you to sexual abuse, you can hold them accountable.
At Maison Law, you can rely on our team of experienced California sexual abuse lawyers to help you navigate this challenging time. We’ll explain the full range of your legal rights and options, and support you every step of the way. To get started with a free consultation, contact us