Women's Issues

VICTORY V BERKS COUNTY: Order and Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law. Berks County must not treat the lowest risk Trusty inmates differently "based on their chromosomes"

January 15, 2019

Federal Judge Kearney ruled in favor of our client Theresa A. Victory stating that Berks County must allow her the same freedom of movement and opportunities provided to her male counterparts at the Berks County Community Reentry Center by Friday, January 18, 2019. These include 13 hours outside her cell when she is at the prison, no lock on her cell during, the evening and direct access to the rehabilitative programs she wishes to attend in the re-entry center.

Judge Kearney stated that “We find Berks County does not adequately justify its reasons for this substantially different treatment of lowest risk Trusty inmates working in our community on work release based on their chromosomes.” and “After too long, Berks County must act now to mitigate further harm to Ms. Victory and ensure her equal protection under the Law, without retaliating against her . . . because Berks County now needs to treat men and women Trusty inmates in the same manner.”

The Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project is representing Ms. Victory in this class action lawsuit filed on behalf of fifteen female work release and Trusty inmates.



Migrant Women Who Were Sexually Assaulted in ICE Detention Are Telling Their Stories

July 17, 2018 | Prachi Gupta | Jezebel

In 2014, after fleeing from a partner who raped and beat her in Honduras, a woman identified as “E.D.” was sent with her toddler to a family detention center in Pennsylvania where she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by a guard

“I didn’t know how to refuse because he told me that I was going to be deported,” she told the New York Times. “I was at a jail and he was a migration officer. It’s like they order you to do something and you have to do it.”

The officer, Daniel Sharkey, later pled guilty to institutional sexual assault. What’s rare about E.D.’s story is not, unfortunately, that an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Officer abused a woman in detention. It’s rare that he was prosecuted for it.


Sexual Assault Inside ICE Detention: 2 Survivors Tell Their Stories

July 17, 2018 | Emily Kassie | The New York Times

It was an early morning in May when Maria was released from the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Texas. She had been granted bond and was permitted to stay with her brother in Washington D.C. while her asylum case was pending.

After gathering her belongings, she was escorted to a loading area fenced with razor wire and placed into a cage inside a van. The driver was a male guard named Donald Dunn. Shortly after leaving Hutto, Dunn pulled off the road.

“He grabbed my breasts … He put his hands in my pants and he touched my private parts,” she said. “He touched me again inside the van, and my hands were tied. And he started masturbating.”

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'I felt like a caged animal.' Pa. woman claims jail illegally shackled her during labor

May 10, 2018 | Philadelphia Daily News | Samantha Melamed

Athena Remlinger was supposed to go to court on Oct. 17, 2017. She expected to be sentenced to time served on charges that she participated in a robbery. It was a relief: She was pushing nine months pregnant, and wanted to be home from jail in time to give birth.

Instead, her public defender told her the court date was canceled. The Lebanon County Correctional Facility had decided to induce labor two weeks early — for staffing reasons, she claims she was told.

Though Remlinger pleaded with correctional, and then medical, officials to let her carry her baby to term, they took her to Hershey Medical Center, shackled her to a rocking chair, and gave her Pitocin, a drug that induces labor, she claims in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania’s Middle District.

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County's Settlement With Pregnant Inmates Shines Light on Missing Policies

November 16, 2017 | Lizzie McLellan | The Legal Intelligencer

Pennsylvania has received high rankings nationally for its treatment of pregnant inmates, but under a recent settlement, one of its counties will be forced to make changes to its conditions for women who are expecting while in jail.

Allegheny County agreed to a settlement earlier this month in Seitz v. Allegheny County, under which they are changing their policies for housing pregnant inmates. The agreement stems from five inmates’ federal lawsuit against the county over the practice of placing pregnant inmates in solitary confinement at the Allegheny County Jail. Four of the five plaintiffs had spent time in solitary confinement, between six and 22 days, during which time they spent 23 to 24 hours per day in an isolated cell.

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Allegheny County Jail agrees to stop putting pregnant inmates in solitary

November 9, 2017 | Ben Schmitt | Trib Live

The American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement Thursday regarding complaints about the Allegheny County Jail's practice of putting pregnant inmates in solitary confinement.

Four of the five plaintiffs spent time ranging from six to 22 days in solitary confinement while pregnant inside the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh.

“We are grateful that officials in Allegheny County have recognized how harmful it is to keep pregnant women in solitary confinement,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “It's unfortunate that it took a federal lawsuit for them to recognize this, but we're pleased the county has agreed to a progressive, comprehensive and humane policy. People who are incarcerated have a right to basic health care needs and to be treated humanely.”

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In Allegheny County Jail, pregnant inmates have been held in solitary confinement for infractions such as having one too many pairs of shoes

December 23, 2016 | Matt Stroud | Medium

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, along with The Abolitionist Law Center, PA Institutional Law Project, and Reed Smith filed a lawsuit on behalf of five pregnant women who spent as many as 22 days in ACJ’s Disciplinary Housing Unit for transgressions such as storing envelopes in a library book, and possessing three pairs of shoes instead of two. One of the women named in the lawsuit told Rewire that she was placed into the DHU — a euphemism the county uses for solitary confinement — because she kept her physician-prescribed medications in her cell, apparently against the jail’s policy. Once in the hole, she said she felt “like I was going to be in there forever.” When she filed a written grievance with the warden about being placed into solitary, she noted that she was going through a high-risk pregnancy — a detail that one would imagine the jail’s primary overseer might take seriously. A reply was scribbled at the bottom of the form: “If this is a problem don’t come to jail.”

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