The household of a 23-year-old girl who dedicated suicide in a rural Washington jail says she tried to report sexual harassment by a guard, however her grievance was dismissed. Months later, that very same correctional officer was sentenced to jail for sexually assaulting 4 different girls.
In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed final week, the household of Kimberly Bender alleges that officers on the metropolis jail in Forks, Washington, have been negligent in stopping Bender from committing suicide and from being plagued by a guard with a recognized misconduct document, violating Bender’s constitutional rights and federal requirements to forestall jail rapes.
Not solely that, however the lawsuit says that the jail tried to cover her sexual harassment grievance from state investigators.
“It seems they swept all of it below the rug,” says Ryan Dreveskracht, one of many attorneys representing Bender’s household.
The Forks Police Division, which additionally oversees the town jail, declined to touch upon the lawsuit.
Bender, a 23-year-old Quileute tribal member, was out and in of the Forks jail between July and December of 2019, combating drug dependancy and melancholy.
It was whereas she was incarcerated there that former corrections officer John Grey started harassing her, in accordance with the go well with. Grey allegedly tormented Bender at evening, leering at her, making “vile” feedback, and continuously waking her up.
Bender, “combating heroin withdrawal, was unable to sleep, relaxation, or loosen up due to Defendant Grey,” the lawsuit says. “In the midst of the evening, when Kimberly tried to sleep, Defendant Grey perched himself within the doorway of her jail cell, preying over her and sexually tormenting her. Kimberly felt terrified for her security always and, finally, of no price.”
Grey beforehand labored on the Washington State Division of Corrections Clallam Bay Corrections Middle, however in accordance with disciplinary data, the jail moved to fireside him in 2018 for making inappropriate feedback throughout a coaching session on the Jail Rape Elimination Act (PREA), a federal legislation that units requirements for stopping and reporting sexual assaults in jails and prisons.
A deputy director on the Clallam Bay Corrections Middle discovered that Grey “made sexually charged feedback and sounds akin to, ‘Right here we go’ and ‘oooh…oh yeah child…mmmmm'” throughout a video portion of the coaching that depicted a girl conducting a pat-down search on one other girl.
As Purpose has beforehand reported, PREA is largely toothless. For the reason that reporting guidelines went into impact in 2012, reviews of sexual assaults in prisons and jails have dramatically elevated, particularly at native and county jails. “PREA, that is a joke,” one former federal inmate who sued the federal Bureau of Prisons advised Purpose. A Justice Division Civil Rights Division report launched final 12 months discovered that sexual assaults and harassment of inmates at Florida’s largest girls’s jail are “extreme and prevalent all through the jail.”
Whether or not Grey’s firing was upheld or reversed by way of union arbitration is not clear, however in any case, he was employed as a corrections officer on the Forks Metropolis Jail in April 2019. The explanation Grey may bounce to a brand new corrections job with little obvious problem is that Forks, a small city of about 3,900 folks greatest generally known as the setting of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight collection, wanted extra correctional officers and could not afford to be picky. In line with the lawsuit, the jail had a follow of leaving just one guard to observe each female and male inmates throughout shifts.
“It is a small jail,” Dreveskracht says. “Numerous instances these small amenities are an afterthought, underfunded and understaffed.”
After violating her parole for possessing marijuana-related paraphernalia, Bender was despatched again to the Forks jail on November 5, 2019, the place the lawsuit says Grey started harassing her once more. On November 16, Bender tried suicide by slicing one in all her forearms with a razor.
Whereas she was within the hospital for therapy, Bender reported Grey’s harassment to a tribal police officer, which was captured on physique digicam.
In line with the lawsuit, Bender was launched from the hospital and despatched again to the jail, together with particular medical directions, together with “wants all weapons faraway from her entry and wishes [sic] watched for suicidal gestures and makes an attempt.”
On the jail, she was interviewed once more and described Grey’s conduct over the earlier 4 months: “Just about sexual fucking exercise indirectly in some way. He is at all times attempting to get across the cameras.”
“Final week I used to be nonetheless detoxing and he was coming to my door,” she stated. “I will not go to the lavatory when he is on. It is simply fucking uncomfortable.”
The Forks police officer who interviewed Bender wrote in a report that, “from my coaching and expertise I consider that Bender is telling the reality for a number of causes.”
Nevertheless, in accordance with the lawsuit, Forks Police Chief Mike Rowley, who additionally oversees the town jail, issued an inner investigation report a day later, on November 18, that concluded that the misconduct allegations in opposition to Grey have been “unsubstantiated,” which means they didn’t discover proof to help Bender’s allegations or that Grey had violated any jail insurance policies.
Though the jail didn’t substantiate Bender’s grievance, Grey’s probationary employment on the Forks Metropolis Jail was quietly terminated. Bender was allegedly by no means advised that anybody believed her, and since the grievance was unsubstantiated, it could not be a black mark on Grey’s profession.
On December 4, 2019, Bender was discovered useless in her cell with a bedsheet tied round her neck.
The lawsuit alleges that Rowley then uncared for to open up to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Workplace, which was investigating Bender’s loss of life, that 18 days previous to her suicide Bender had reported being sexually harassed whereas in custody, or that the jail had investigated the allegations.
The Peninsula Each day News reported on December 13, 2019, that Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Nole “stated Bender didn’t give any indication that she was suicidal and she or he was not on suicide watch.”
It is a unprecedented assertion, provided that Bender was hospitalized for a suicide try a month earlier.
Grey, in the meantime, went again to his outdated job on the Clallam Bay Corrections Middle. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Workplace started investigating him for a separate rape allegation, and he was arrested in Could of this 12 months and charged with sexually assaulting 4 different feminine inmates on the Forks Metropolis Jail throughout his temporary tenure there. Two of the ladies have been heroin addicts, in accordance with the lawsuit. Grey pleaded responsible and was sentenced to twenty months within the custody of his earlier employer.
Grey was not charged with harassing Bender, as she was deceased. She left behind a younger son.
“She was withdrawing from opioids and actively suicidal,” Dreveskracht says. “She wanted assist, and she or he acquired the other.”