Justice Department Releases Investigative Findings Showing Violation of Constitutional Rights in Kansas Correctional Facility
Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department today released its letter of findings determining that the Topeka Correctional Facility (TCF), an all-female facility in Topeka, Kan., under the jurisdiction of the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC), fails to protect women prisoners from harm due to sexual abuse and misconduct from correctional staff and other prisoners in violation of their constitutional rights. The Justice Department delivered a letter detailing the findings to Governor Samuel D. Brownback and Secretary of the KDOC Ray Roberts.
The investigation was conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and focused on whether prisoners at the facility were subject to sexual abuse in violation of their constitutional rights. The Justice Department, with the assistance of an expert consultant in custodial sexual abuse, found that KDOC and TCF violate women prisoners’ constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by continuing to expose them to harm and the serious risk of harm from prisoner-on-prisoner and employee-on-prisoner sexual abuse and assault.
The investigation concluded that TCF fails to protect women prisoners from sexual abuse and misconduct from correctional staff and other prisoners in violation of their constitutional rights. TCF has a past history of officer-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse and misconduct. The women at TCF live in an environment with repeated and open sexual behavior, including sexual relations between staff and prisoners and non-consensual sexual conduct between the female prisoners. Much of the inappropriate sexual behavior, including sexual abuse, continues and remains unreported due to insufficient staffing and supervision, a heightened fear of retaliation, a dysfunctional grievance system and inadequate investigative processes. To date, KDOC and TCF have failed to remedy the myriad systemic causes of harm to the women prisoners at TCF despite repeated, well-documented and detailed investigations and audits exposing the problems.
“Our investigation has revealed that multiple deficiencies in the operations of the Topeka Correctional Facility have exposed female prisoners to harm and the serious risk of harm from prisoner-on-prisoner and employee-on-prisoner sexual abuse and assault,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “It is our strong desire to work with both the facility and the Kansas Department of Corrections to implement reforms to address these repeatedly-documented deficiencies.”
The department’s investigation involved an in-depth review and analysis of a broad array of documents, including policies and procedures, incident reports, investigative reports, prisoner grievances, disciplinary reports, unit logs, orientation materials, medical records, staff training materials and video footage. The Justice Department interviewed administrative staff, security staff, medical and mental health staff, facilities management staff, training staff and prisoners.
Throughout the investigation, the Justice Department provided feedback and technical assistance to TCF officials.
“Our office stands ready to work with the state of Kansas on solving the problems in the Topeka Correctional Facility,” said Barry Grissom, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas. “The report has identified a very serious and troubling situation at the facility. Action needs to be taken immediately.”
The Justice Department looks forward to continued cooperation with the State of Kansas, KDOC and TCF to timely resolve these findings under mutually agreeable terms that will provide accountability and accomplish the remedial measures within a fixed period of time.
For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt .