In a statement on their website, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it is launching an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment by what the DOJ terms “multiple members” of the staff at the Arkansas Department of Correction’s McPherson Womens Unit in Newport.
The investigation will also reportedly look into the treatment of transgender prisoners there.
From the release:
The department has received numerous allegations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment of prisoners by multiple members of McPherson Unit staff. Allegations include staff engaging in sexual intercourse and other sexual acts with prisoners; exchanging commissary money for sexual favors; and inappropriately watching prisoners while they shower or change clothes, commenting on their private parts and, at times, taking photos or video for reasons unrelated to correctional goals.
“Staff sexual abuse of prisoners violates the constitutional rights of prisoners, undermines prison safety and security and can lead to other crimes,” said the head of the Civil Rights Division, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “This investigation furthers the Justice Department’s goal of zero-tolerance for sexual abuse and sexual harassment in our nation’s jails and prisons. We hope to work cooperatively with the state of Arkansas in conducting our inquiry and ensuring that prisoners in its custody are not being sexually abused.”
The DOJ’s Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division is conducting the investigation, under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), which authorizes the DOJ to investigate allegations that the Constitutional rights of prisoners have been violated.
Those with information about allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment at the McPherson Unit are encouraged to contact the DOJ’s special email line that has been set up for the investigation: Community.McPherson@usdoj.gov