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Senate Report Finds Thousands of Cases Alleging Sexual Abuse of Women Behind Bars, Spanning Two-Thirds of U.S. Prisons

Jon Ossoff

Then-Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff delivers remarks during a campaign rally with Joe Biden at Pullman Yard in Atlanta, Georgia.

Previewing a hearing on Tuesday exploring sexual abuse against incarcerated women in the United States, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) released a report finding that U.S. prison authorities opened 5,415 cases accusing Bureau of Prisons staff of committing such abuses.

Male BOP employees, including senior officials, sexually abused women locked up in at least two-thirds of the federal prisons that have held them in the past decade, the report found.

Since his election on Jan. 6, 2021, Ossoff has used his perch as a U.S. Senator to focus on criminal justice reform and incarceration. His latest report follows another one from September with likewise eye-popping statistics, accusing the Department of Justice of undercounting at least 990 deaths in federal lockup. The DOJ strongly disputed those findings.

On Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, Ossoff and his colleagues on the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation that he leads will focus on the story of three formerly incarcerated women sharing their stories of abuse: Carolyn Richardson, Briane Moore and Linda De La Rosa.

The 33-page report, which also bears the signature of the subcommittee’s top Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, stems from an eight-month investigation citing “non-public BOP and whistleblower documents” and “more than two dozen interviews with senior BOP leaders, whistleblowers, and survivors of sexual abuse.”

According to the subcommittee, BOP employees have sexually abused female prisoners in at least 19 out of 29 facilities holding them, a rate of more than two-thirds. From such startling statistics, the committee reached a categorical conclusion implicating the prisons and the agency overseeing them.

“BOP has failed to successfully implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act (‘PREA’),” the report’s executive summary finds. “It failed to prevent, detect, and stop recurring sexual abuse in at least four federal prisons, including abuse by senior prison officials. At FCI Dublin, for example, the former Warden and Chaplain both sexually abused female prisoners.”

The report blames the alleged failures on a “backlog of 8,000 internal affairs cases, including at least hundreds of sexual abuse cases.”

Citing reporting in the New York Times, the Senate also noted that repeat offenders could be found inside two of New York City’s federal prisons.

“Starting in approximately 2012, at least two officers repeatedly sexually abused at least eight female prisoners at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (‘MCC’) New York over the course of several years,” the report states. “Starting in approximately 2016, at least two male lieutenants and one officer sexually abused at least nine female prisoners at the Metropolitan Detention Center (‘MDC’) Brooklyn in New York.”

Metropolitan Detention Center

A sign is posted outside the Metropolitan Detention Center on Feb. 4, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

The subcommittee isn’t the only corner of Capitol Hill turning its attention to sexual abuse inside the Bureau of Prisons.

On Monday, Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) led a bipartisan group of senators in pushing Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco for more information on the scope of the problem. Their letter noted that the Justice Department resolved to form a working group, which in November recommended that the Department and the Bureau take “immediate action to enhance prevention, reporting, investigation, prosecution, and discipline related to staff sexual misconduct.”

The senators seek the DOJ and BOP’s briefing on an implementation plan for those recommendations. That letter was also signed by the Judiciary Committee’s top Republic Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

[Images of Ossoff and MDC both by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."