Sex Offenses and the “Culture of Indifference” Inside Jails and Prisons

Any person who claims to have deep feeling for other human beings should think a long, long time before he votes to have other men kept behind bars – caged. I am not saying there shouldn’t be prisons, but there shouldn’t be bars. Behind bars, a man never reforms. He will never forget. He never will get completely over the memory of the bars.” – Malcolm X, ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

With the recent high-profile death of Jeffrey Epstein, a spotlight has been placed on the attitudes and conditions of confinement. Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg’s August 12th article for The Appeal reveals that jails across America have a “culture of indifference” within our correctional system. The article states, “Prisoners at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein was housed, have allegedly been subjected to beatings by staff, rodent-infested cells, and solitary confinement, according to prisoners, lawsuits, and human rights groups… Incarceration itself is a traumatic experience.” (note1)

Jeffrey Epstein’s death has been the subject of conspiracy theories and questions about whether his death was truly a suicide. That question may never be answered fully. The murders of some prisoners accused or convicted of sexual offenses have been initially declared suicides. But I’m not a man who believes in wild conspiracy theories about underground Illuminati Satanist pedophiles running governments around the world. I believe a far more rational and simple solution exists that explains Epstein’s death. People accused or convicted of sexual offenses are more likely to be targeted for acts of violence than those convicted of other offenses, as explained in an August 12th OpEd by Chandra Bozelko and Ryan Lo for the Miami Herald:

Epstein was vulnerable for reasons that have nothing to do with the ostensible secrets he might have kept on powerful people. Because he was convicted of sex crimes against children, Epstein was one of the most likely prison targets. As former prisoners ourselves, we know violence and abuse in prisons aren’t always the result of supervisory vacuums. In fact, deaths of people accused of sex offenses are rarely accidental; they’re highly choreographed and implicitly endorsed executions. No woman convicted of a sex crime has ever been killed, but they’ve been beaten, usually under the guise of another dispute. The same is not true in men’s prisons, where the ire directed at sex crimes can be fatal… labeling them as subhuman has completely warped our understanding of crime and accountability. Murder is practically approved when it comes to this class of inmates. Twitter wove threads of glee at Epstein’s demise. Prison administrators are often complicit with these homicides.” (note2)

It is hard to pinpoint how many of those accused or convicted of sex offenses have been murdered, since media reports offer only a glimpse into the issue. An AP report released in 2015 found that from 2007-2014, 23 of the 78 deaths in California prisons were of people accused/ convicted of sex offenses, despite providing “sensitive needs yards” (which have been exploited by gang members seeking to kill a “cho-mo” for prison “cred”). Those convicted of sex offenses made up 15% of the population but 30% of the murders. A quarter of Oklahoma’s inmate murders from 2004-2014 were of those convicted of sexual offenses; of the 4 inmates killed in Maine between 2001-2014, 2 were convicted of sex crimes. (note3)

What is the likelihood of being murdered in prison for having a sex offense? It is hard to tell without accurate reporting. I can only speculate based upon a number of studies.

According to PrisonPolicy.org, “The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories.” Of this number, 540,000 people are pre-trial detainees. Of those, an estimated 23,000 are waiting trials on rape, sexual assault, or kidnapping charges. An estimated 5500 sex offense prisoners are awaiting transfer to prison after conviction. Roughly 3260 juveniles are in youth facilities for sexual assault. About 6000 people convicted of sex crimes are languishing in civil commitment. About 2500 adult women and 163,000 adult men are in state prisons for sexual offenses. (note4) In addition, as of August 2019, there were 16,622 federal inmates (about 10.1% of the federal population) convicted of sex offenses. (note5) That means at least 220,000 prisoners, or about one in 10 prisoners, are either accused or convicted of sex crimes. Taking rises and falls into account, the number of total inmates has remained relatively steady for t least the past decade.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 660 prisoners were found murdered between 2005 and 2014 (a mortality rate fluctuating between 3 and 7 out of every 100,000 inmates annually). (note6) Using databases from eAdvocate and SOSEN’s forums, I counted 108 news reports of prisoners accused or convicted of sex crimes were murdered. That means AT LEAST 16%, or roughly one in 6, of the victims of murder behind prison walls were accused or convicted of sexual offenses. However, this means that out of the roughly 220,000 people held on various sex offenses, roughly one to two dozen of them may be murdered annually, or roughly a one in 9,167 to a one in 18,333 chance in being murdered.

There are a few caveats to my findings:

  1. The database was compiled from various databases such as the eAdvocate blogs and the SOSEN forums, as well as a Google search on “sex offenders killed in prison/ jail.” This is by no means exhaustive but is limited to murders that made it to the news media outlets and subsequently picked up by anti-registry activist organizations. That means some murders may not be included here. For example, the US Department of Justice recently found that the Alabama Department of Corrections has repeatedly failed to accurately document the deaths of inmates. “There are numerous instances where ADOC incident reports classified deaths as due to ‘natural’ causes when, in actuality, the deaths were likely caused by prisoner-on-prisoner violence. This is especially concerning given that these incident reports are used for public statistical reporting as required by law.” (note 7)

  2. There is no implication that every person charged with/ convicted of a sex offense was targeted. Not every report was complete with information. However, there is a noticeable pattern of indifference from guards and targeting by gangs, especially white nationalist groups.

  3. I included in my count roughly a half-dozen cases where medical negligence was the cause of death. Some may disagree with such an inclusion but I believe it is valid.

In total, I had found 163 murders reported in various degrees to the media. There could have been more murders of individuals accused or convicted of sexual offenses that went uncounted because my count only included those reported by the mainstream media. Here are a few of the most notable deaths:

  • Larry L. Thomson was killed at Thomaston State Prison in 1990 after a 3-day “kangaroo court”held by members of a prison gang.

  • The man who killed Edwin Curry at Minnesota Correctional Facility on Thanksgiving Day, 1997, stated he would have killed again had he not been caught.

  • The man who killed Rudy Delgado in the Texarkana prison in Texas was executed for the murder, but felt he should have been applauded.

  • Jason Wagner was killed at Warren Correctional Institute in Ohio on November 13, 2000; he was placed in a cell with a person known to hate “sex offenders.”

  • Raymond W. Maxwell was murdered at Corcoran State Prison in California because the inmates did not want any “sex offenders” on their cell block.

  • The high-profile conviction of John J. Geoghan ended with his murder on August 23, 2003; the killer, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, plotted the murder for a month.

  • John Joseph Lydon murdered sex offense inmates at two separate prisons. He first murdered Philip Kunkle at Pleasant Valley State Prison in California in 2004, then killed Jonathan Guy Alexander at Deuel Vocational Institution (CA) in June 2010.

  • Richard Alvin Ausley was murdered at Sussex I State Prison (VA) on January 15, 2004; the killer had warned the guards not to bunk him with a “child molester.”

  • Michael Green was murdered in Chuckawalla State Prison (CA) on June 21, 2005; he was confronted for his “paperwork” and his death was ordered by the “shot caller” of the cell block.

  • Peter Brian Deakin was murdered at the Mohave County Jail (UT) by a white supremacist on October 14, 2005; he was being held on a charge of Failure to Register.

  • Charles A. Willingham was murdered by the Aryan Brotherhood at Lawton Correctional Facility (OK) on September 26, 2006. Gang members had been caught extorting money from inmates convicted of sex crimes.

  • John Derek Chamberlain was murdered at the Theo Lacy Facility (CA) on October 7, 2006. Half a dozen inmates took part in the killings after one of the killers had used the prison’s database to find potential victims.

  • Kent D. McDonald was murdered at Pendleton Correctional Facility (IN) on April 6, 2007; the killer, connected with a white supremacist gang, had news clipping of recent convictions of sex offenses.

  • Steven Obara was murdered at USP Atlanta (GA) in July 2007; the killer’s confession bragging about killing a “pedophile” was initially suppressed during his trial.

  • Jurors refused to hand down a guilty verdict against the man who killed Thomas Walter Turner at Ridgeland Correctional Institute (SC) on November 20, 2007 despite evidence the murder was a targeted attack.

  • Terry Bell was murdered at Martin Correctional Institute (FL) on October 13, 2009; the killer referred to his victim as a “pervert’ and expected a reward for his violent act.

  • Ronald Ferguson was denied protective custody at the Terrotorial Prison (CO) and was murdered on November 19, 2009.

  • Gary Van Wolf had not yet gone to trial at the Sebastian County Jail (AR) when he was murdered on September 16, 2020, despite being in protective custody; his killer claimed God told him to kill Wolf.

  • Steven Roger Smith was murdered by a Corrections Officer at Warren Correctional Institute (OH) on Halloween, 2010; the guard tried to make the murder look like a suicide.

  • Ricky Cooper was killed at McCormick Correctional Institution (SC) on November 8, 2011; the killers wrote “pervert” and drew swastikas on the victim’s body.

  • Lyle Brent White was not convicted of a sex crime, but was murdered at the Sterling Correctional Facility (CO) because he was mistaken for a “cho-mo.”

  • Stuart Brooks was serving a sentence for Failure To Register at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (a private prison) when he was murdered on February 21, 2012.

  • Kenneth Taylor was murdered at the Patton State Hospital (CA) on August 31, 2013; the killer stated he hated “molesters.”

  • Micah Boland was stabbed 87 times and multiple bones were broken at the Warren State Prison (ME) on February 28, 2014; the killer bragged about killing a “sex offender.”

  • Theodore Dyer was murdered at the Saginaw Regional Correctional Facility (MI) on October 16, 2016; the killer targeted him due to his conviction.

  • Tommy Joe Smith was locked up in the Tangipahoa Parish Jail (LA) for having an inactive Facebook page; he was murdered on February 8, 2017 by at least 11 inmates in what many onlookers described as a “feeding frenzy.”

  • Roger Largent was murdered at the Western Correctional Institution (MD) on February 12, 2007, 4 days because his conviction was overturned.

  • Arthur Williams was an 82-year-old man declared unfit to stand trial; he was murdered at the Jackson County Correctional Facility (FL) by a man who bragged he took one less molester off the streets.

  • On January 2, 2019, Christian Maire was murdered at the Milan Federal Detention Center (MI) in what was described as a “targeted attack.”

The bad news is there could be a number of individuals who were murdered that are not confirmed to be murders. The good news is that murder is relatively uncommon even in American prisons. However, assaults are very common in the prison system. Some studies indicate that approximately 21% of male inmates are physically assaulted over a 6-month period, and sexual assault is estimated at between 2% and 5%. (note 8)

A study on the social interactions of people in prison found that support from and relationships with correctional officers and fellow prisoners were perceived less positively by those convicted of sexual offenses than those who do not. “For sex offenders, the relationships with other inmates and staff were

often found to be strained. Sex offenders may experience stigmatization by fellow prisoners and correctional staff that can result in being treated negatively (Ireland, 2000; Schwaebe, 2005; Spencer, 2009). Ricciardelli and Moir (2013) looked into how incarcerated sex offenders experience their relationships with fellow prisoners. They found that sex offenders felt unsafe in the prison environment due to a constant sense of threat and actual victimization by fellow inmates. As a result of this awareness, Blagden and Pemberton (2010) found that a number of sex offenders serve their sentence with other prison ‘outcasts’ in protective custody, sometimes even in isolation or solitary confinement, for their own safety, leading them to socially withdraw from the ‘prison society.’ In addition, the empirical literature revealed that prison officers, police officers, and psychologists were found to report an overall negative attitude toward the inmates convicted for a sex offense (Higgins & Ireland, 2009; Hogue, 1993; Ricciardelli & Moir, 2013). Higgins and Ireland (2009) even found that compared with the general public and forensic staff, prison officers held the most negative attitudes toward the sex offenders.” (note 9)

Incarceration of any kind is scary and traumatizing to people accused or convicted of a sexual offense.

While society may applaud the murder of a person accused or convicted of a sexual offense, we must remind people that even if only 2% of sex crime allegations are false as feminist activists claim, then potentially tens of thousands of innocent people are incarcerated and placed on public registries. As note in the Miami Herald OpEd, “We live in an era of exoneration, and that applies to sex crimes, too, although we don’t know how much. A study conducted by the Urban Institute that used DNA analysis to retest certain crimes found that, out of 422 convictions for sex crimes, subsequent forensic testing was inculpatory — supporting guilt — in only 187 cases, or 44 percent. That means that 56 percent of convictions of sexual assault might be attached to innocent people. Killing sex offenders isn’t just morally unjustifiable; sometimes it’s based on misinformation.” (note10)

There are hundreds of thousands of names on the public sex offense registry, many of whom are either currently incarcerated. Thousands of those accused or convicted of sexual offenses have survived the prison experience. I do not like to advertise on behalf of any for-profit venture, some may find the article “Survive Prison as a Sex Offender” (note 11) to provide some useful information, particularly those facing federal prison time. Reforming America’s attitudes about sex offenses must include our attitudes towards incarceration.

References:

  1. Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg. “EPSTEIN’S DEATH REVEALS ‘CULTURE OF INDIFFERENCE’ IN JAILS.” The Appeal. 12 Aug. 2019. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019 at https://theappeal.org/epsteins-suicide-reveals-culture-of-indifference-in-jails/

  2. Chandra Bozelko and Ryan Lo. “Epstein might not have been killed, but sex offenders’ prison deaths often are ‘choreographed’- Opinion.” Miami Herald. 12 Aug. 2019. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019 at https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article233794677.html

  3. Don Thompson. “AP Exclusive: Many sex offenders killed in California prison.” AP News. 16 Feb. 2015. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019 at https://apnews.com/0838baf58d674ed0a26e199c230d674a

  4. Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner. “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2019.” Prison Policy Initiative. 19 Mar. 2019. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019 at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2019.html

  5. Inmate Statistics – Offenses.” Federal Bureau of Prisons. 10 Aug. 2019. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019 at https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offenses.jsp

  6. Margaret Noonan. “Mortality in State Prisons, 2001-2014 – Statistical Tables.” US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Dec. 2016. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019 at https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/msp0114st.pdf

  7. INVESTIGATION OF ALABAMA’S STATE PRISONS FOR MEN.” United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama. 2 Apr. 2019. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019 at https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1150276/download

  8. Wolff, Nancy, and Jing Shi. “Contextualization of Physical and Sexual Assault in Male Prisons: Incidents and Their Aftermath.” Journal of Correctional Health Care, vol. 15, no. 1, Jan. 2009, pp. 58–77, doi:10.1177/1078345808326622.

  9. van den Berg, Chantal, et al. “Sex Offenders in Prison: Are They Socially Isolated?” Sexual Abuse, vol. 30, no. 7, Oct. 2018, pp. 828–845, doi:10.1177/1079063217700884.

  10. Supra., Bozelko and Lo; See also John Roman, Ph.D., Kelly Walsh, Ph.D., Pamela Lachman, and Jennifer Yahner. “Post-Conviction DNA Testing and Wrongful Conviction.” Urban Institite Public Policy Center. June 2012. Accesed 18 Aug. 2018 at https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/25506/412589-Post-Conviction-DNA-Testing-and-Wrongful-Conviction.PDF

  11. Survive Prison As A Sex Offender.” Zoukis Consulting Group. https://www.prisonerresource.com/prison-life/special-tactics/how-sex-offenders-survive/

By Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com

5 comments for “Sex Offenses and the “Culture of Indifference” Inside Jails and Prisons

  1. Thomas Darby
    August 20, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    I have often wondered about the intellectual and moral standards of the human race. For example, a bank robber, thief, many murderers, and people committing violent assaults and stabbings rarely face the focused hatred within or without prison walls that a simple child molester faces. By “simple,” I mean one who caused no physical injury, did not penetrate any body cavity, did not force or rape or kidnap or commit murder of a child. In other words, the vast majority of incarcerated sex offenders. Maybe they were, maybe they were not “perverts” or “pedophiles.” Yet the public (given political/media reinforcement) believes these people are totally nonredeemable, and the prisoners with non-sex crimes consider themselves “better” somehow and take out their violent nature on these men who, for the most part, are older or physically unable to defend themselves. I had a friend in prison who had been gang-raped by a number of rough AB types while the guards looked away. Only the arrival of a supervising guard made the acts stop. His crime? Having sex with his 16-year-old stepdaughter, who gave him a child. Not beating, not rape, not kidnapping. He’s in a wheelchair for life and will die in prison. But a guy who beat his wife to death, beat his children with a belt, had a history of armed robbery… HE was one of the “well-liked” inmates in our unit. Tattoos all across his face. Here’s my take: Beat a child, get probation; Pet a child, go to prison. Everything is all morally and ethically backwards of what common sense would tell you.

  2. Thomas Darby
    August 20, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    EDIT: I forgot mention that the friend who was gang-raped as noted above, was assaulted in High Desert State Prison in California; I met him a couple of years later, at CSATF/Corcoran, on a so-called “sensitive needs” yard. He was less than a quarter of the way through a 48-year sentence at the time.

  3. Tim
    August 22, 2019 at 12:38 am

    Jeffery Dahlmer was caught and convicted while I was in OCCI in WI 92-95. Although he was in a different prison there was word in our yard about the contract upon his life. The contract was rumored to have been established by Dahlmer’s victims family members. A few days later we heard the money went on books. Finally we heard news reports about his killing that happened in a prison shower area. He was beaten to death with a mop handle. That’s how the joint works. Wisconsin doesn’t officially have the death penalty but……..s**t happens. The state had the Dahlmers home raised by bulldozers like me it just did to Make Patterson’s place where he kept Miss Closs during her well publicised kidnapping. In WI, the people attempt to erase you.

  4. Kayt
    August 22, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    There is a long news article on Fox News, I just read it. At the bottom of the article was a warning to not copy or distribute, so I won’t. The article was about sex offender murders in prison. It was written in the same tones that I read here, maybe harsher.

  5. PhysEd
    August 25, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you, Derek for your level of activism; I wish there were more people with as much fire in the belly as you have.
    So called sex offenders have replaced society’s need for witches and hunts for them.

Comments are closed.