Persons accused of committing sex crimes have a difficult time behind bars. That’s no surprise, because negative attitudes toward alleged sex offenders are prevalent. People on the street don’t like these people, corrections officers don’t like them, prisoners don’t like them. Let’s face it, our friends sitting right next to us in church don’t like them!
Before I deal with the subject of this blog, however, it’s important to stress a few very important points. Criminal sexual conduct charges cover an exceptionally wide variety of alleged offenses. We know of actual cases in which a man was spotted urinating in a dark alley, arrested on a charge of indecent exposure and actually sentenced to prison! We know of numerous cases of wrongful conviction, often stemming from marital or family disputes, when someone choses to get even by accusing a person of molesting a child. We know of numerous cases involving consensual sex with someone below the legal age limit. So while it’s true there are pedophiles and rapists and child molesters in prison, the sex offender title covers a lot.
I bring up this topic following a couple of recent reports to our office.
The wife of a prisoner who claims wrongful conviction on a CSC charge says her husband has been told he may not have a maintenance job, yet the inmate/head of the maintenance program in that prison is in on a CSC conviction. A classifications officer similarly told him he couldn’t have the job of midnight porter because of his case. Yet, she can find nothing in the MDOC policies that supports denial of jobs like these. But it happens.
Even more common is the way fellow prisoners and Corrections Officers treat many alleged sex offenders. Here’s a message we just received from Thomas:
An officer went down to search my cell. He sat in the room, reading my legal work, then dumping out my legal envelopes. He trashed my bed, crinkled up a whole slew of my paperwork and pulled all of my pictures out of my photo album, crinkling them too. He mixed my cellmates stuff all in with mine. I went to my counselor’s office and explained everything to him. Then, I immediately went to speak with the Sgt. He just threatened to take me to the hole. When he looked in my room he stated, “I don’t know what it looked like before." I asked him to take pictures and he refused. Then another came in and saw my cell and I'm sure the camera will show him just shaking his head. Later on in the evening the original officer called me to the desk and asked me for my ID. I asked him if he was writing me a ticket and he responded in the affirmative. We started to exchange words and he stated to me and a group of guys on the base that us "child molesters" complain about everything.
It is not uncommon to receive reports that officers have tipped off prisoners about alleged sex crimes of others, simply to stir up trouble and to scare the alleged offenders.
These are not isolated incidents. That’s why we take the time to write about them. In fairness, let me say the Department doesn’t condone this stuff either. But some of the old-timers in the system still seem to prefer the old way.
Men and women serving time for alleged CSC infractions, rightly or wrongly, deserve fair treatment. The incarceration is the punishment. Nothing may be added. Period.
The Department should insist on it.
So should we.