Prisons Sexual Abuse
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Image shows a prison inmates hands.

May 13, 2017

Female prison guards increasingly subjected to male inmates exposing themselves, masturbating

Since his incarceration for a sexual assault conviction in Washington D.C., Glen Greenwald, 25, has been disciplined three times in Pennsylvania prisons for masturbating in front of female prison guards.

His most recent punishment was handed down Thursday when a federal judge gave him 21 months’ imprisonment — on top of 19 years for his violent attack of a female jogger — for allegedly exposing himself to a guard at the Allenwood prison in Central Pennsylvania and "making obscene gestures while continuing to move towards her."

Greenwald's torment of the female guard — who has since undergone counseling to cope with the incident — is hardly isolated. At his sentencing, the warden said male inmates exposing themselves to female officers was an increasing problem at high security federal prisons, according to PennLive. An attorney for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons added that it was in fact becoming a norm.

The problem has been escalating for decades as female employees have become more commonplace in prisons. In recent years, it's led to lawsuits from guards who claim their superiors did nothing to reprimand the abusive inmates, whose actions range from verbal assaults and rape threats to groping.

Attempted solutions have varied. There's criminal prosecution, à la Greendwald's case. New York's “Inmate Exposure Control” forced offenders to wear padlocked jumpsuits with "EXPOSER" labels put up outside their cells. In 2007, South Carolina's prisons were sued for forcing exposers to wear pink jumpsuits — the suit was tossed a year later.

One more recent reform, however, seems more substantial. A 524-woman lawsuit filed against U.S. prisons in Florida was settled this February, providing a number of new policies after the plaintiffs' employer allegedly failed to address repeated sexual harassment from inmates.

The settlement included a $20 million payout as well as workplace protections for female workers, staff training on sexual harassment, psychological treatment for inmates and giving inmates jumpsuits without pockets to make it harder for them to masturbate in front of prison employees.

Taronica White, a former employee at the Florida prison at the center of the suit, described the issue of inmates masturbating to Quartz as a "free for all," noting that she can no longer talk to a man if he has his hands in his pockets.

She told the website after the settlement: “It really doesn’t matter where a female works, no one should be subjected to sexual harassment. No one goes to work to be discriminated against.”