Colorado Department Of Corrections Sued Over Alleged 'Culture Of Sexual Abuse'

02/07/2011 12:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A group of ten female prison inmates has filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Corrections alleging repeated sexual abuse by prison guards.

The suit claims an "overt culture of sexual abuse" at women's prisons in the state.

The Denver Post reported on the lawsuit--which was filed last month, and is awaiting certification in federal court--on Monday.

The complaint details more than a dozen instances in which it claims officers in two prisons -- the Denver Women's Correctional Facility and the since-closed, privately run Brush Correctional Facility -- coerced women into performing sex acts on them.

The officers made threats to have the women "written up" or to make life difficult if the women did not submit, according to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Department of Corrections officials failed to take "substantive remedial actions" to stop it, the lawsuit charges.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of sexual abuse allegations involving female inmates at facilities run by the Department of Corrections.

In September, the Department of Corrections announced a change to its strip search policies in response to public pressure from the Colorado chapter from the ACLU.

The policy in question at the time, the so-called labia lift cavity search, was called "degrading," "gratuitous" and unconstitutional by the ACLU. Testimony from female inmates indicated widespread abuse by prison guards during the implementation of the labia lift search.

The ACLU praised the Department's responsiveness after the change.

"Officials at DWCF [Denver Women's Correctional Facility] deserve credit for eliminating these degrading searches," Mark Silverstein, Legal Director for the ACLU of Colorado, said in September.

In 2009, a circuit court judge awarded $1.3 million in damages to a female inmate who had been sexually abused at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility, calling the incident "disturbing."

Judge David M. Ebel said at the time that testimony during the trial indicated that the Department of Corrections does not effectively enforce its zero-tolerance-policy for sexual abuse by prison guards.

A spokesman for the Department if Corrections told the Denver Post on Monday that the Department welcomes civil suits because they help "raise awareness of these issues."

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