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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name DOJ CRIPA Investigation of Lowell Correctional Institution PC-FL-0034
Docket / Court No Court Case ( No Court )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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 prisoners 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-prisoner 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 - 07/21/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Conditions of confinement
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Prison Rape Elimination Act
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Totality of conditions
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
Defendant(s) Florida Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description The United States Department of Justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 2018
Case Ongoing Unknown
Additional Resources
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  An Analysis of CRIPA Findings Letters Issued to Jails for Constitutional Violations by the Department of Justice
Date: Apr. 15, 2016
By: Jeff Mellow, Bryce E. Peterson & Mijin Kim (John Jay College of Criminal Justice Faculty)
Citation: Am. J. Crim. Just. (April 2016)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
not recorded
12/22/2020
Investigation of the Lowell Correctional Institution-Florida Department of Corrections
PC-FL-0034-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section

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