Justice Dept.: Topeka Correctional Failed To Protect Inmates From Sex Abuse

By: Melissa Brunner/AP
By: Melissa Brunner/AP

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The U.S. Justice Department sent Gov. Sam Brownback a scathing, 20-page letter Thursday, saying the state's Topeka Correctional Facility does not protect women from sexual abuse from staff and other prisoners.

The letter says the TCF investigation was conducted by the U.S. Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section.

The federal government says, by not protecting the female prisoners from the sexual misconduct, the state violates the inmates' constitutional rights.

The report goes on to say women live in an environment with repeated, open sexual behavior, including relations between staff and prisoners and non-consensual sexual conduct among female prisoners. The report says female prisoners are exposed to harm and risk of harm from sexual abuse and assault.

The letter outlined steps the prison and the Kansas Department of Corrections can take to resolve the issues. Those steps include additional training and investigations of all complaints of misconduct.

But the letter also says that if the department isn't satisfied with the department's efforts by late October, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder could file a lawsuit.

Department of Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay says the agency is reviewing the letter.

The state was notified of the investigation in April. The Justice Department reports it provided feedback and technical assistance to the facility during the investigation.

Topeka Correctional is the state's all-female prison located near SE 6th and Rice Rd.

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Communications Director/Press Secretary for Governor Brownback issued the following statement regarding the report late Thursday:

“Governor Brownback made it clear from the time that he took office that his administration would have a zero tolerance policy to sexual abuse of inmates and misconduct from correctional staff.

“Because of serious concerns surrounding the safety and well-being of the inmates held at the Topeka Correctional Facility (TCF), when Governor Brownback appointed Sec. Roberts to lead the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) in January 2011, he immediately directed the Secretary to do a comprehensive internal review of the facility.

“After a thorough review of the facility’s policies and procedures, the administration moved aggressively to make changes, including the installation of more than 100 cameras; additional training standards for internal investigators; establishment of an automated case log system; and installation of new equipment to retain security camera footage for 120 days. In the 16 months since the Department of Justice conducted its investigation in May 2011, immense strides have been made by Sec. Roberts and the KDOC to correct the TCF deficiencies that began under Governor Kathleen Sebelius and were permitted to fester without sufficient attention until Gov. Brownback took office.

“Gov. Brownback also requested an additional $440,000 to hire additional security staff at TCF; proposed the under-market pay plan recently approved by legislators that includes salary increases for more than160 positions at TCF to help recruit and retain quality personnel; and directed the KDOC to request an independent follow-up audit to ensure all of the issues identified in the first audit had been addressed.

“KDOC will continue to work with DOJ and we are confident that as DOJ gains a more complete picture of the situation at TCF as it exists today, it will become clear that the constitutional rights of TCF inmates are protected by the State of Kansas in the Brownback administration.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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