Law enforcement authorities’ indifference to conditions of imprisonment is too often deliberate. Even after learning that his policies were facilitating sexually abusive behavior by prison officials against underage prisoners, Sheriff Stanley Glanz, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, did nothing to change the status quo. Now, thanks to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, his successor—if they haven’t already—is going to have to put some reforms in place.
Eight years ago, Ladona Poore, then just 17 years old, was allegedly routinely sexually assaulted by a detention officer, Seth Bowers, while imprisoned in the Tulsa institution Glanz supervised.
Poore testified that during the early portion of her detention, Bowers began groping her. She stated that he entered her cell and engaged in this type of misconduct more than fifty times. The sexual abuse escalated during the course of her incarceration. Bowers watched Poore in the shower, asking if she was done and then laughing at her. He later exposed himself to Poore and demanded oral sex. Bowers engaged in oral sex with her on approximately ten occasions, and sexual intercourse approximately five times. Poore did not inform jail staff of the abuse because Bowers convinced her they would both face consequences if she reported him.
After her release, Poore sued Glanz for providing “inadequate housing, staffing, and supervision for the area of the facility where juvenile female inmates were housed.” The jury found for Poore, awarding her $25,000. (Unfortunately, Bowers faced neither civil nor criminal legal consequences, though he did resign.)
Glanz appealed the federal district court decision to the Tenth Circuit, which hears appeals from Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. When an appeals court reviews a lower court’s decision, it views the facts in the “light most favorable” to the way that it came out below. On that basis, the appeals court determined:
Glanz knew the policies he implemented with respect to juvenile female inmates created an excessive risk of sexual assault and that he was deliberately indifferent to that risk. Although Glanz acknowledged that juvenile female inmates were at a heightened risk of sexual abuse, he chose to house them in an area of the jail that was visually isolated, unmonitored, and often staffed by only one male officer, and where a prior incident of misconduct had occurred. He did so despite written policies intended to prevent sexual abuse that required direct supervision of juvenile inmates and prohibited male officers from entering the cell of juvenile female inmates alone.