Friday, January 14, 2005

Male Guards / Female Inmates

In another thread, the topic of sexual abuse of female prisoners by male guards came up. There is one particularly ill-informed particpant in that conversation who seems to be under the incredibly misguided notion that male guards are not allowed to work in female prisons. This could not be further from the truth (at least, not in the US). In fact, in the US, 70% of guards in female prisons are male. Not only are men allowed to be guards in female prisons, but the majority of the guards are male.

Further, there are very few states that limit male guards' access in these prisons. According to the Amnesty International report, Abuse of Women in Custody: Sexual Misconduct and Shackling of Pregnant Women (A State-by-State Survey of Policies and Practices in the U.S.), the only states that have limitations on access for male guards are:
  • Arizona: As the result of a settlement with the DOJ, the Arizona DOC must provide privacy screens for shower and toilet areas in the Tuscon-Manzanita Unit or alternatively schedule two daily 15 minute time periods for inmates to shower and/or dress under the supervision of only female guards. Additionally, male guards must announce their presence in areas where female inmates could be in a state of undress.
  • Connecticut: DOC Directive 6.7 states, "Reasonable accomodations shall be made to provide for same gender strip searches."
  • Georgia: Gender specific posts have been created; for example, transport officers posts in female prisons are reserved for female. All men entering female units must announce themselves. All pat searches and strip searches are governed by the DOC same-sex regulations.
  • Michigan: Due to a settlement with the DOJ, male guards must "knock and announce" their presence when entering areas where female inmates could normally be in a state of undress. The DOC Director recently (as of this report) announced a new policy of not assigning male guards to female housing units.
  • North Carolina: According to the written response from the NC DOC, some duties are gender specific.
  • South Dakota: No cross-sex pat-down searches or strip searches allowed.
  • Wisconsin: According to the written response from the Wisconsin DOC, the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) places restrictions on pat-down searches, strip searches, and unannounced bathroom/shower entries; it also covers when a medical condition is likely to require disrobing.
  • Wyoming: According to the written response from the Wyoming DOC, male guards are not permitted to perform strip searches on incarcerated women.
While we are on the subject, here are some other interesting findings regarding sexual assault of women in prison. For a simplified chart of the various laws, you can go to this table. But, for those who cannot open or who do not want to bother with a .pdf file, the info is summarized below.

States with no custodial sexual miscoduct law:
  • Oregon
  • Minnesota
  • Alabama
  • Wisconsin
  • Vermont
States where custodial sexual misconduct is not considered a felony (only a misdemeanor):
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • US Bureau of Prisons
States that do not cover all forms of sexual abuse (for example, threats or oral sex, among other things):
  • Arkansas: The law only covers sexual contact. It does not cover acts involving penetration.
  • Delaware: The law only covers sexual intercourse and deviate sexual intercourse.
  • Florida: Limited to penetration.
  • Idaho: The law is limited to specific specific sexual acts involving penetration, and does not cover all sexual contact.
  • Indiana: The law covers only specific sexual acts involving penetration.
  • Iowa: The sexual acts prohibited are limited to penetration.
  • Maine: The law specifies that sexual contact is not included in the prohibited acts.
  • Maryland: The law specifically does not cover sexual contact.
  • Mississippi: The law is limited to sexual penetration.
  • Missouri: The law requires that the person "knowingly injures" the inmate by sexual contact in order for it to be covered.
  • Nevada: The law covers sexual contact with the genital area only.
  • North Carolina: The law does not prohibit sexual contact.
  • Ohio: The law only covers sexual penetration.
  • Rhode Island: The law is specific to sexual penetration.
  • South Carolina: The law is limited to sexual intercourse only. All other acts, including other acts of penetration, are not prohibited.
  • South Dakota: For prison employees, the only prohibited act is penetration. Jail employees are also prohibited from sexual contact.
  • Texas: The law does not prohibit sexual contact.
  • West Virginia: The law is limited to sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion, and does not include contact.
States with cutodial sexual misconduct laws in place that allow "consent" as a defense:
  • Nevada (consent is presumed)
  • Wyoming: The law requires proving the custodian "used" their position of authority in order to get the victim to submit. Consent if a valid defense.
  • Colorado: Penal codes 403 (Sexual Assault in the Third Degree) and 404 (Unlawful Sexual Contact) allow consent as a defense. Penal code 701 (Sexual Conduct in Penal Institutions), however, does not.
  • Missouri: The law requires that the officer "knowingly injures the physical well-being" of the inmate, which allows the defense of consent.
  • New Hampshire: The law does not allow the defense of consent for cases involving penetration. The law does not specify as to whether consent can be raised as a defense to other sexual contact.
States Where the current custodial sexual misconduct law imposes a criminal penalty on an inmate:
  • California (in the case of oral copulation)
  • Nevada: the inmate is considered guilty of the same offense. The law presumes the sexual contact was voluntary and consensual.
  • Arizona: In order for an inmate to complain about alleged abuse, she would have to admit to committing the same offense. Arizona makes no issue of the inmate's lack of consent, so even an inmate who was raped could be charged under this law.
  • Delaware: An inmate would be guilty of the same offense.
States where cross-gender pat-downs are routine:
  • Kansas
  • Michigan: Scheduled searches are same-sex. Random searches can be cross-gender.
  • Pennsylvania: Practice is managed at individual institutions. At Muncy, cross-gender pat-downs are routine. At Cambridge, pat-searches are predominately same-gender.
  • New York: a class-action suit was filed in 1998.
  • Connecticut
  • New Hampshire
Only Florida, Michigan, and South Dakota disallow cross-gender pat-down searches. All other states say that the majority of searches are done by someone of the same gender, but allow cross-gender pat-down searches in emergencies (but "emergenies" is never defined).

States where the law covers all staff and custodians (e.g. vendors, medical or kitchen staff)
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
States where the statute does not cover all correctional facilities and locations:
  • Arkansas: While the law protects state prisoners, it requires that the custodial sexual misconduct within a city or county jail for non-state inmates
  • Colorado: 701 applies only to employees of the correctional facility or jail. 403 and 404 apply to hospitals and other institutions, but require the actor to have "supervisory or disciplinary authority" over the inmate.
  • Delaware: The law does not cover employees of private prisons, contractors, or non-employee staff.
  • Florida: The law only covers employees of the Florida DOC. Does not currently cover employees of jails, private facilities, or others.
  • Hawaii: The law is specific to state employees, and adds "law enforcement officers" for penetration only
  • Idaho: The law prohibits employees, officers, and agents from sexual acts, but does not include persons such as service providers who are affiliated with contractors.
  • Louisiana: The law specifies public employees; it does not include private contractors or ancilliary service providers.
  • Maryland: The law specifies who is covered. It does not cover jailors, service providers, or others who are not correctional employees.
  • Michigan: The law does not cover municipal or local jail employees, nor does it protect those convicted who are detained in local or munipal institutions, unless they are juveniles convicted as adults.
  • Missouri: The law is specific to employees of the Missouri DOC.
  • Montana: The offender must have supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim. The law provides different standards of who is covered for each offense.
  • Nebraska: The law is limited to employees of the DOC or Office of Parole Administration and contract employees and agents.
  • New Hampshire: The only protects against a person "supervisory disciplinary authority" and that offender has to use this authority.
  • New Mexico: The law requires that the person has to be in a supervisory position over the inmate.
  • North Dakota: The law only covers those who have "supervisory or disciplinary authority" over the inmate.
  • Pennsylvania: The law only applies to state and county employees and specified agents.
  • Rhode Island: The law is specific to state employees or state contractors.
  • South Carolina: The law only covers employees of the state or local correctional facility.
  • South Dakota: Both laws require the person to have custodial, supervisory, or disciplinary authority over the victim.
  • Tennessee: The law only covers law enforcement or corrections officers.
  • Virginia: The laws require the actor to be in a position of authority over the person in custody.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

DV and men

Over the years, I have heard a number of arguments (usually by men's rights and father's rights activists) that those of us who work in the domestic violence field are "sexist" because we are not offering equal shelter for men escaping domestic violence situations. While I have not seen this explicit argument stated in the recent comments on this blog, I have seen what could be the very beginnings of, I thought I'd go ahead and comment on it now.

I will state upfront that while the vast majority of DV victims are women, I do recognize and acknowledge that male victims exist. The majority of those male victims are in same sex relationships, but there is a small minority who are in heterosexual relationships as well. I do believe that these men deserve help and support. But I also recognize the very real difficulties in providing this help through the already existing support system.

As many of you know, I currently work at a DV shelter in my area. At this one shelter, we get approximately 5,000 calls a year from women seeking shelter because they are escaping DV. We have to turn away 85% of these women due to a lack of space. There are 6 other shelters in my city, and they all have about the same rates.

In my time at the shelter, I have never received a call from a man seeking help. My coworkers have received calls from men seeking help -- but sadly, all but a very few turned out to be "sex calls" (quite frankly, probably one of the most disturbing "fetishes" or "perversions" I have ever witnessed). But I cannot say that our shelter, or the other shelters in the area do not receive legitimate calls for help from men. We cannot provide help for them, but we try to put them in contact with a number of agencies in the area that work with men.

A shelter designed to house women simply cannot also house men. These shelters are supposed to be safe places -- and sheltering a man in there would be problematic for 2 reasons:
  • the mere presence of a man living in such close quarters to women in crisis makes it feel much less safe. That may be hurtful for men in crisis to hear, but it's a fact.

  • These shelters are confidential. Abusers often try everything they can to find out the location of the shelter. In the few cases where a shelter has taken in men, there have been instances where it turned out that the man was actually an abuser, simply trying to track down his victim. It's simply not a safe thing to do.
Now, some shelters have enough funding where they can provide temporary hotel vouchers for men fleeing domestic violence, thereby helping the man without risking the safety of the women in shelter. Many shelters have begun to do this. At this point, the shelter I work for cannot do this -- keep in mind, though, we cannot offer hotel vouchers for women, either. We simply do not have the funding.

Along with the argument that we are "sexist" for not taking men into our shelters, it has also often been argued that NOW and/or other feminist organizations have tried to block funding for research or for shelters for men. This is an out and out lie. Many have blocked (or attempted to block) forcing women's shelters that are already in existence to start accepting men, or to turn one or more of them into a shelter exclusively for men. And hell yeah, they're going to this. When 85% of women seeking shelter are being turned away, the last thing in the world we need to be doing is diminishing the limited resources we already have.

Neither NOW nor any other feminist group has tried blocking men from starting their own shelters. They have fought losing their funding for this cause, but have not -- EVER -- fought men from getting their own funding.

And here's the important part -- one of the reasons that men's shelters have not been successful (in addition to the fact that so many men's rights activists would rather bitch and moan than actually do anything, and would rather take away from women than actually do anything for themselves) is that men simply don't seek out the help. Part of this is because fewer men actually need this sort of help. Even if one was to accept the 30% rate of abused men (that I have seen argued by men's rights activists; although, I've yet to see the proof for this number), not all of those men need shelter; therefore it is not correct that 30% of the shelters should be for men. The vast majority of abused men are abused by men (that is, they are gay men who are being abused by their male partners). The majority of these men do not have children. That, in itself, lessens the barriers to leaving (although does not eliminate them), and therefore lessens the need for shelter. Also, these men tend to have more financial security, and are therefore in less need of shelter.

The other part is that abused men are simply not as likely to seek shelter -- perhaps out of shame. I'm not saying, in any way, that this is OK. Certainly, something should be done about it. But the fact remains, it's harder to get funding for something that is simply not used as often.

Men's rights groups -- if they were really interested in helping abused men -- would do better to actually get off their complaining asses and start doing something. Do some outreach to abused men. Start more programs addressing abuse of men (without taking the hard-earned resources from women). Start their own shelters (want some hints on doing so? -- look at the damned hard work of the feminists who started women's shelters in the 70s and 80s, feminists who didn't have public support or public funding, but did it anyway). And most important of all -- work with men who are doing the abusing. Because regardless of the gender of the abused, the vast, vast majority of abusers are men.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

DV and the Single Girl

Over the last 4 decades, feminists have made significant strides in getting society to realize and acknowledge the devestating effects of domestic violence. By 1983, 10 states recognized domestic violence as a criminal offense. Also by the early 1980s, 29 states began appropriating funds for services to survivors of domestic violence. By 1987 there were approximately 1000 domestic violence shelters opened across the country. In 1994, we won the hard-fought battle for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the first federal law to address the issue of domestic violence by providing funds for shelters, a national domestic violence hotline, rape education and prevention programs, training for federal and state judges, and new remedies for battered immigrants. In 2000, VAWA was expanded to include dating violence.

All of this is, of course, great. It shows that while we still have a long way to go in the battle against domestic violence (and abusers), we are making significant progress. But not all of these changes over the past few years have been for the better. The VAWA budget is currently before Congress, with both the House and the Senate proposing budgets that fall over $100 million short of the 2000 authorization [.pdf file].

One of the biggest shifts in domestic violence policy came about with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA, HR 3734, also known as Welfare Reform -- or, as I prefer, the more accurately descriptive term, Welfare Deform). Prior to PRWORA, victims of domestic violence could receive financial aid through the Emergency Assistance (EA) Program, which provided up to $1,200 to be used for housing and/or moving expenses in order get away from an abuser and was a program independent of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or General Assistance (GA -- the public welfare program that provided cash assistance to poor individuals without children). In other words, EA was not considered "welfare." After PRWORA, GA was effectively dismantled (only allowing those adults with long-term disabilities to collect aid) the Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) became Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) which included new formulas for work incentives and time limits. Funds for domestic violence victims became part of the TANF program, now known as Temporary Assistance to Domestic Violence Survivors (TA-DVS) rather than the EA program. This means that only those women who qualify for TANF can qualify for TA-DVS (also known as the "domestic violence grant").

In many ways, the switch from the EA program to TA-DVS required few changes. Recipients still receive up to $1200 to be used to ensure safety. For those who are not familiar with the DV grant, the following is the description of "program benefits" as defined by Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS):

TA-DVS benefits will pay the minimum needed to stay safe, up to $1,200 maximum, for families fleeing abuse or to assist families in remaining free from abuse.

Benefits are used to pay for safety-related needs, such as:
  • Payments for housing-related costs (rent, move-in costs, mortgage payments, utilities)
  • Payments related to setting up a household (furniture, household items, etc.)
  • Payments to increase safety (locks, post office box, etc.)
  • Payments to replace personal items left behind when fleeing abuse, if not available from other sources (clothing, etc.)
  • Other payments related to safety-focused case plan.

  • Note: benefits are generally paid directly to the landlord or service provider.
Payments can be made for child care, transportation, etc. to support completion of this case plan.

The program will remain open for 90 days to allow time for domestic violence survivors to stabilize their living situation and to address immediate safety concrs. Payments (up to $1,200 maximum) may be made at any time during these 90 days. In addition, domestic violence victims may access this program more than once per year if needed for safety.
While the general guidelines for qualifying for TA-DVS (in addition to being a DV survivor) are the same as the guidelines for qualifying for TANF, some elegibility requirements can be waived on a case-by-case basis. For example, some income may not be counted (for example, if the abuser has exclusive control over all finances). In addition, if the elibility requirement puts a person at risk of harm by domestic violence, those requirements will be waived (for example, the requirement to obtain a child support order or citizenship requirements for battered immigrant women).

But the one requirement that will NEVER be waived is the requirement that the beneficiary be pregnant or have dependent children in their custody. Unlike the former EA program, single women* are entirely ineligible for TA-DVS, regardless of their situation. And there is no other program out there that provides financial assistance for these women.** On top of this, getting safe housing can be a major obstacle for single women. Because they are viewed as less of a priority for social housing than women with children, they are less liely to be re-housed by local housing authorities. In addition, most domestic violence shelters provide mostly for families. Very few shelters have more than 1 or 2 spaces available for single women. (The shelter I currently work has space for up to 6 single women, by far the most space available in the state -- and that is divided between 2 facilities.) The majority of homeless shelters take only families. Of the few that take singles, they are often co-ed and can be as dangerous for women as living on the street.

Over the past few years, we have seen a number of programs for single women eliminated, while programs designed to promote and encourage marriage and motherhood are cropping up everywhere. Women who do not go this route, whether by choice, by chance, or simply because they have grown older are being pushed out to the margins more and more. Certainly helping children is of utmost importance. But it is imperitive that we do not make women invisible in the process.

While programs for domestic violence victims were orginally designed to help women (and by extension, their children, if they had any) escape and recover from domestic violence, examination of more current policies shows that these programs are designed to provide services primarily for children and only secondarily for mothers of those children.*** Under the current programs, single women who are survivors of domestic violence have become invisible, and this invisibility is producing dire consequences for these victimized women.

[NOTE: I would like to thank my coworker, C, for the research and work she has done on this issue, much of which I used in this post.]

*For the purposes of this post, the term "single woman" refers to women without dependent children (i.e. women who have never had children, women who do not have sole custody of their children, and women who have grown children).

**Much of what is discussed in this post refers to Oregon. These programs vary from state to state. For example, New York has established a form of Safety Net Assistance (funded through state and local sources) that provides emergency assistance to people who do not qualify for TANF, including benefits identical to TA-DVS. On the flip side, there are states that offer
far fewer benefits than Oregon, even to mothers.

***Since this is a post about single women, I haven't bothered to discuss the problems of even mothers of children obtaining the DV grant. But I should make a note that this can still be a difficult process. Some DHS workers refuse to acknowledge the economic abuse that exists in some families, thereby refusing to acknowledge that a woman may not have actual access to family money. In addition, there are far too many DHS workers who use the lame-ass excuse "well, you're in a safe place now, so you don't need the grant" when talking to women who are in a temporary shelter.