Victoria Law's Blog

NC women prisoners sue over sexual violence

On August 24, 1974, Joan Little, a twenty-one-year-old black woman and the only female prisoner in North Carolina’s Beaufort County Jail, killed Clarence Alligood, a sixty-two-year-old white male guard. Alligood had entered her cell, threatened her with an ice pick and forced her to perform oral sex. She fled after stabbing him, but turned herself in eight days later.   

Little was charged with first-degree murder which, in North Carolina, carried a mandatory death sentence.

During her trial, Little’s defense exposed the chronic sexual abuse and harassment endured by women in the jail and prison system.  Countering the prosecution’s argument that Little had enticed Alligood into her cell with promises of sex, the defense team called on women who had previously been held at the jail. They testified that Alligood had a history of sexually abusing women in his custody:  one woman stated that he had fondled her breasts while bringing her a late-night sandwich; another recalled that he had suggested that she had been in jail long enough to need a man.  

    Little testified that Alligood had come to her cell three times that night. After she refused his advances twice, he returned with an ice pick. “By then, I had changed into my nightgown. He was telling me I really looked nice in my gown, and he wanted to have sex with me,” she stated.  “He said he had been nice to me, and it was time I was nice to him. I told him I didn’t feel like I should be nice to him that way.” 

Apparently, not much has changed in the NC jail and prison system since then:

Prisoners allege sex abuse

NC News and Observer

Nov. 20, 2009
BY MANDY LOCKE – Staff Writer

RALEIGH — Four female inmates have filed a federal class-action lawsuit accusing North Carolina prison officials of subjecting female prisoners to extensive sexual violence and harassment amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.

The lawsuit claims that the women were raped, groped, threatened and sexually humiliated. The women, represented by N.C. Prisoner Legal Services, demand that state prison officials pay them for their distress and “end a pattern of sexual misconduct in all women’s prisons operated by [the state Department of Correction].” The women, who agreed to be named in the lawsuit, are asking to speak on behalf of the state’s roughly 2,900 female prisoners in their fight against officials.

The claim comes on the heels of at least seven separate sexual assaults on female inmates for which the state has offered payouts to avoid legal action. Those awards were also won at the behest of Prisoner Legal Services, a nonprofit group that addresses legal concerns of inmates.

The lawsuit targets top administrators at the state Department of Correction and seven former and current staff members accused of assaulting and harassing the prisoners or protecting employees who did.

for full story, go here:

Thanks to Lois Ahrens of the Real Cost of Prisons Project for bringing this to my attention!

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