Filed Date: 2018
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In April 2018, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJ”) opened an investigation into the conditions of confinement at the Lowell Correctional Institution and the Lowell Annex, a women’s prison complex in Ocala, Florida. Specifically, the investigation focused on allegations of widespread sexual abuse within the prison and Lowell’s ability to protect incarcerated people from sexual abuse. Throughout 2018 and 2019, the DOJ collected relevant documents and information and conducted on-site reviews at Lowell.
In a report issued December 22, 2020, the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida found reasonable cause to believe, based on the totality of the conditions, practices, and incidents discovered that: (1) conditions at the Lowell Correctional Institution violated the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution due to the sexual abuse of incarcerated people by the facility’s staff; and (2) these violations were pursuant to a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights protected by the Eighth Amendment.
The DOJ provided notice that the State of Florida, through its Department of Corrections (FDOC), failed to keep people incarcerated at Lowell safe from sexual abuse by staff and that the FDOC had been aware of and documented a pattern or practice of staff sexual abuse at Lowell since at least 2006. The DOJ found 161 FDOC investigations or complaints arising from staff-on-incarcerated person sexual misconduct allegations from 2015 through 2019. Highlighted in the report were 18 instances of discipline of officers or other staff for PREA-related violations over a single two-month period.
The investigation found that Lowell’s policies and practices discouraged the reporting of sexual abuse; led to an inadequate response to, and investigation of, allegations of sexual abuse; and resulted in grossly inadequate supervision providing opportunities for further sexual abuse.
The DOJ wrote that the FDOC should implement a number of remedial measures to protect women at Lowell from sexual abuse, including complying with PREA, developing a system for monitoring retaliation, ensuring access to victim advocates, adding additional cameras, and developing a new staffing plan.
As of July 21, 2021 the DOJ and Florida had not entered any public agreement, and DOJ had not filed suit to correct any deficiencies in the FDOC’s response to the report.
Rachel Harrington (7/21/2021)
Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.
State / Territory: Florida
Filing Date: 2018
Case Ongoing: Unknown
The United States Department of Justice
Public Interest Lawyer: No
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: No
Class Action Outcome: Not sought
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Prevailing Party: None Yet / None
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