George's Note: I sent this off to key Senators in the Criminal Justice Committee and Representatives in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Judiciary Committee, and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.
Concerns and Solutions Regarding Sexual Abuse Investigations in the Florida Department of Corrections
In both SB 7020 and HB 7131, it is laudable that inspectors who conduct sexual abuse investigations are to receive specialized training. However, in both versions there are a host of contingencies that remain unaddressed.
In our communities, the prosecution of sexual abuse cases where rape has been alleged are fraught with difficulties. Prison rape cases present especially challenging conditions where protocols from outside sources may provide guidance.
Legislation regarding sexual abuse investigations must be explored in detail and written word for word into the law. The Florida Department of Corrections cannot be trusted to develop its own rape investigation protocols. And how will the DOC notify inmates what new protocols are in place and how they will work?
Although the following concerns focus on rape, other types of sexual abuse investigations may derive guidance as well.
Rape investigations are time sensitive. Investigations and evidence collection via rape kits must be conducted within 120 hours. FL DOC policy provides a Six Month period in which an investigation may be commenced. This is unacceptable. I know of a male inmate, awaiting a rape investigation, who has been in administrative confinement for nearly three months - he has yet to meet with an investigator. In addition, he is being treated as if he is a disciplinary case complete with taunting and withholding of books and commissary.
Gender of Investigator
From the moment an inmate reports a rape, time is of the essence. An investigator must be assigned immediately. The gender of the victim must be considered when assigning an investigator. A female inmate must be paired with a female investigator. Likewise, male victim - male investigator.
Rape Kit Provision and Testing
Rape Kits must be available onsite in the medical sections of all prisons in
. Doctors and trained
medical personnel must respond immediately to requests to do pelvic exams and
rape kits. The kits themselves must be tested in a timely manner to insure that
the DNA evidence meets prosecutorial standards. Custody of rape evidence must
not be left to chance - there must be clear guidelines regarding its possession
and storage. Florida
These are just a few concerns I hope Senators and Representatives will take into consideration when drafting prison reform legislation. I encourage lawmakers to reach out to sexual abuse experts in our communities to insure that prison rape cases be handled in the most expeditious and humane way possible.