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Attacking Sexual Assault in Virginia Prisons

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008   

Richmond, VA - Hundreds of inmates in Virginia jails are subjected to sexual assault by guards every year. Patrick Owen Gee, a Fluvanna County corrections supervisor, was indicted last week on 30 counts of "carnal knowledge of an inmate," and women prisoners at the Pocahontas Correctional Unit in Chesterfield recently settled a lawsuit on similar charges.

Attorney Brenda V. Smith at American University says the problem goes on because the public overlooks it.

"Because they've broken some law, the notion about inmates is if you didn't want to put yourself at risk for this kind of abuse, then you should not have done what you did in order to get locked up."

She believes the problem won't stop until the state takes action to make it clear that prisoner abuse is not okay.

"There needs to be a prosecution, and there needs to be something that sends a message both to the inmate community and to the public that being abused in custody is really not a part of the sentence for committing a crime."

Smith is a member of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. The group is working to create a "culture of reporting" that lets people feel they'll be protected when they report sexual abuse. Prisoners or their families seeking help can call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-838-8238.




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