The U.S. federal government has settled with a gay inmate, for $750,000, who was forced to share a cell in a penitentiary in Florence, Colorado with a fellow prisoner who followed through on threats to attack him over his sexual orientation, The Washington Post reports.
Alec Arapahoe pleaded guilty to a charge of driving a stolen car across state lines in 2014, and was sentenced to nine months in federal prison. He told his stepmother that he was being harassed and threatened by other inmates because he is gay. She passed the message along to prison officials, who investigated the allegations.
The then-21-year-old specifically mentioned one fellow prisoner as being of particular concern, a man named William Mexican. Arapahoe said he had been “voted off” the yard due to being gay. According to the complaint, while most of the inmates interviewed by officials denied ever threatening him, Mexican admitted to it. He claimed Arapahoe was causing problems by “disrespecting the wrong people.”
According to the filing, when Mexican discovered Arapahoe was gay, he tried to extort money out of him, made him watch him workout, and threatened to beat and rape him.
Despite the admission of guilt by Mexican, officers called Arapahoe “deceitful” over the course of their investigation, then concluded there was “no verifiable threat.” Not only was Arapahoe moved from protected housing, he was placed in a cell with his alleged harasser. They were left unsupervised for more than two days, during which Arapahoe said he was beaten and raped repeatedly, resulting in serious injuries for which he was later treated. An examination verified that he had been sexually abused.
Arapahoe tried to alert prison staff by using the duress button in his cell multiple times, to no avail, as well as attempting to catch the attention of security cameras.
Despite this, Mexican was not convicted of sexual abuse, but he has been given an additional ten years for assault.
A special investigative agent’s office at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) found 28 guards and other prison staff committed departmental offenses, with most not performing required rounds meant to be carried out at 30 minute intervals. Six were found to have falsified logs, claiming to have made the rounds when they did not make.
According to a federal survey, inmates with a “non-heterosexual” sexual orientation are at significantly higher risk of being sexually assaulted in jails and prisons.