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Dignity – Women’s Federal Prison Camp

Dignity, Respect, and Ethical Treatment

Every morning when I left the Camp building for my clerk job in one of the facility administrative buildings, I walked by a placard on the foyer wall that was supposed to convey a testament as to how the guards here are supposed to treat the inmates.  Without going through all the words, it basically stated that we were to be treated ethically and respectfully.  When I first saw it upon my day of self-surrender here back in October 2015, my fear was soothed somewhat as I thought it was a creed of sorts that actually meant something and was followed by all.  I thought that although I would be incarcerated and would lose my freedom for 18 months here, that at least I would be respectfully treated as a human being and that my civil rights would be conserved.  Well after shortly having experienced Camp life and treatment by the guards and certain staff, I eventually walked by that same placard and only looked upon it with contempt, sadness, and disdain as the reality conveyed by its words was nothing but a falsehood and a spectre of the truth.

Given my eventual and coveted clerk position and its responsibilities, part of my duties involve organizing and filing the signed training certificates on inmate treatment that the staff/guards were required to annually review, understand, and execute.  And there were just a handful of guards there that did live up to that training and treat us properly.  I really did respect that handful of guards because they walked their training talk every day, really did believe in that creed on the foyer wall, took their job very seriously, tried to make a difference, and were very fair, empathetic, and decent people in their own light.  That being said, the remainder of the guards there apparently ignored the acknowledgement of the training they received in favor of their own fragile ego’s and barnyard habits at daily dehumanizing and disrespecting the women there.  And while they were in control and obviously thought of themselves as big men and good ole boys, I looked upon them as nothing but very small human beings who apparently delighted in daily controlling and demeaning women.  Beyond that, it was very clear to me that this particular lot was not anywhere near the sharpest tools in the shed and I imagined that they’ll never amount to much of anything in life beyond what they’re doing.  So I guess they need to vent and take out their frustrations on defenseless souls of the opposite sex who were just trying to trudge and get through each day there, days which were hard enough unto themselves.

This behavior surprisingly went on there day in and day out and perhaps they felt justified and protected in doing so because once a week, the officers and the assistant warden/warden (when they are here that is) all lined up against the wall of the lunch room and allowed us to come up and air our grievances.  Of course we had to carefully pick our battles and air said grievances with a grain of salt as retribution did exist there as happened to other women and was communicated to me.  So this particular day was really nothing but another mockery of our rights because we ultimately lived in fear and duress of backlash if we complained too heavily or hit a uber-sensitive subject or nerve.  And all we ever got from them is to put in another cop-out (complaint) or some other lame excuse as to why something can’t be done.  And their beat moved on and on, nothing ever changed, and our treatment continued to be generally sub-human.  To be honest, I think animals are treated with more respect and basic decency than we were there.

One such incident occurred with me from a guard as I was doing my cleaning orderly duties and mopping the hallway floors during a rainy day.  The guard entered the hallway with muddy boots, kept walking back and forth across the hall that I had mopped, and I then had to remop to remove the mud on the floor from his boots. As I did so, he got to within an inch of my face and both physically intimidated and scared me, kept reiterating to me how he loved walking on freshly mopped floors with muddy boots, and asked me if I was going to cry.  All I could do was stand there petrified and in utter fear at what he might do to me next as we were alone and the corridor was empty.  That event and others like it that routinely go on there on the part of Camp staff is uncalled for, reprehensible, constitutes sexual harassment, is a violation of employee conduct under several US Department of Justice (USDOJ) program statements, is a violation of inmate civil rights, and generates undue fear for our own safety when we are simply trying to complete our designated tasks.  This behavior on the part of Camp guards also extends to other female inmates at the Camp but is tolerated as nothing is ever done.  The fact that we are subjected to routine pregnancy tests only heightens the awareness of what could happen.

Sadly, this level of treatment not only included the guards but most shockingly, a few of the FCC managers, all of whom occupied space in the building where I worked at my clerk job and what I thought would be a more professional administrative position and environment.  In fact, 2 of the managers there were the worst perpetrators of all at what I would call clear and present violations by Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees of general policies as defined under and governed by regulations in 5 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 2635; 28 CFR Part 115; Sections 4 (General Policy) and 5 (Personal Conduct) of the USDOJ Standards of Employee Conduct (USDOJ Program Statement (P) P3420.11; 12/6/2013); and even worse and more significantly, Class I/II sexual harassment as defined under zero tolerance via USDOJ Sexually Abusive Behavior Prevention and Intervention Program (P-5324.12; June 4, 2015) under the staff perpetrator against inmate victim behavior.

Conversely, in my prior position as a cleaning orderly in the Education Department, my supervisor there was very respectful towards me, did not want to see me move into my clerk position, gave me a rare Certificate of Appreciation, and I missed him and his daily kindness and respect very much as compared to what I was forced to daily endure for last 13 months of my incarceration. Endured by who I thought would be the most professional personnel at the facility, that being the managers, people who were entrusted with levels of responsibility and accordant behavior by the BOP and who should be setting the prime example to their employees via the regulations that they were supposed to uphold and operate under. These were the last personnel that I expected to be forced to endure daily sexual harassment from since I arrived in that position. At the forefront, I was basically sexually harassed on a daily basis by said managers via verbal sexual oogling, comments on my appearance, levying of two nicknames, being called other horrible names, sexually commented/hit on, and put in weird/compromising positions. That made it difficult for me to do my job and I felt like a piece of meat, was apprehensive, and especially unsafe around these managers, especially when the assistant warden was away as the sexual harassment often escalated during those times. The scarier thing to me was that sexual harassment often escalated to physical sexual abuse although I thank the stars that that never happened to me there.

Given said behaviors are obviously in direct violation of several USDOJ/other federal statutes and policies, the offending parties should be severely reprimanded and/or terminated. To that end, inmates can legally file sexual harassment claims with the USDOJ Offices of Inspector General (OIG) and Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) although such claims often go unfiled for fear of reprisal and worsening of the situation as has apparently happened there before. Nonetheless, this matter needs attention and investigation within the BOP given the sexual harassment classifications directly violate USDOJ/BOP and government service (GS) zero tolerance policies.

So, regardless of what you may read to the contrary, this was the reality at my Camp. I will say that based on preparatory phone calls that I conducted with women who have served their time at other facilities, not all facilities are apparently like this. As I previously mentioned, there were a handful of personnel there that treated us with nominal respect but despite that, all it takes is a few bad apples to spoil the whole bushel. The point is that should you encounter this behavior, you should be prepared to deal with it and know that you can take the necessary action to file a claim. Nor can your judge or anyone else on the outside do anything about it because this issue is internal and its resolution must come from within the BOP and USDOJ.

To not rock any boat, I never did file a claim against the offending personnel there. My outlook became one of daily dealing with being harassed and demeaned by the two managers with strength and fortitude.  I just continued to do my job and I did it well and hoped that they would stop one day when they realized that their pathetic remarks and sexual connotations would never get the best of me. I never let it in and just considered the source and looked upon them as pitiful souls who must have lived pretty pathetic lives.

Eventually, I was vindicated and released from their daily issues by applying for and landing a position in the FCI 2 Warden’s office. And I happily thought I would spend the rest of my time working there and was treated respectfully by both him and his staff.

Unfortunately, my time at the Camp would be short-lived and I would be further thrusted into the bowels of the BOP by their own absolute and culpable negligence.

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