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Zero Tolerance Policy

The Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Downtown Los Angeles

Martine likes to spend a day in downtown L.A. once a week. While there, she spends some time around the Twin Towers Correctional Facility operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It holds more than 2,000 inmates. Crumpled up outside the jail are interesting sheets of paper which give a lurid picture of life in stir.

Today, Martine handed me an information sheet entitled “Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Comprehensive Inmate Education.” It and other informative pieces of paper are tossed away by released inmates. At the top of the sheet is the usual administrative huffing and puffing by the Sheriff’s Department (which refers to itself as the LASD):

LASD maintains a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY for sexual harassment or sexual abuse of all inmates in its custody.

This means you have the right to be free from sexual harassment and sexual abuse by anyone, including staff, volunteers, contractors, medical and mental health staff, and other inmates, while in LASD’s custody.

You have the right to report if you have been sexually abused/sexually harassed, or if you know of someone else who has been or is being sexually abused/sexually harassed. No one deserves to be sexually abused/sexually harassed.

You have the right to report if you have a suspicion or know of threats that you or someone else will be sexually abused/sexually harassed.

Of course, if you have a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY, it pretty much means that it is probably widespread across the institution. It is typical that the prison administrators will wish the problem away by burying it in reams of paperwork, of which this Inmate Education sheet is an example. It gives detailed information on whom to contact and how. Also included are the following tips on how to protect yourself from being victimized:

  • Stay away from gambling or trading goods with other inmates.
  • Do not use drugs or alcohol [about which there is another ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY]. Being intoxicated puts you at higher risk for sexual abuse.
  • Do not accept gifts or offers of protection from other inmates.
  • Keep this information sheet with you for future reference.
  • There are PREA posters in each housing unit that provide this information.
  • You will also see a video about PREA in your housing unit that is played on a regular basis.
  • PREA is also discussed during town hall meetings with staff.

Nowhere is the point made that if you stay out of prison, you are more likely not to be raped, abused, or harassed.