Two Douglas County Jail inmates say the rape of a fellow inmate could have been avoided if administrators hadn't placed the victim in the same cell as the suspect, whom jailors knew to be violent and a security risk.
In letters to the Journal-World, jail inmates Richard Small and Mark Creamer wrote that administrators disregarded a warning from inmates to be careful about who they placed in the suspect's cell.
They also said the incident was a product of overcrowding and design problems in the 14-year-old jail an assessment with which Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson agreed.
"The guards were fully aware of the problem in cell No. 7," wrote Small, who had been held in the jail on a drug-related conviction. He currently is at the State Reception and Diagnostic Center in Topeka. "They pulled me out of there two weeks ago after I got bloodied by a prisoner. I specifically told them not to put some other victim in there. I insisted that they put me back in there because I could handle those guys. They refused. The kid they put in there . . . is very young with very slender limbs, obviously an easy target."
BECAUSE he had several prior felony convictions and was considered a security risk, officials said, the suspect was sent to the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing to await a court appearance in Douglas County. Sheriff's officers said the suspect was returned to Douglas County in July for trial. He then pleaded guilty to a count of aggravated robbery, and sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 13.
The suspect had befriended and protected the victim, officers said, after the victim began serving a term Aug. 11 for traffic violations.
The victim, an 18-year-old Douglas County man, told sheriff's officers the suspect raped him Aug. 13 while holding a sharpened pencil to his throat. Officers said the incident took place in the suspect's lockdown cell and that the suspect arranged a blanket around his bed to block the view of guards and other inmates.
DOUGLAS County prosecutors are investigating the case, but no charges have been filed.
Dist. Atty. Jim Flory said "the evidence is clear" that an attack occurred. But before he will file charges he wants to talk to the victim to determine whether the teen-ager wants to prosecute the case and whether he will be able to attend trial proceedings.
Authorities have been unable to locate the victim, who has been released from custody.
Anderson said administrators originally wanted to keep the suspect, who had caused trouble in the jail when he was arrested, away from other inmates.
When the suspect was returned in July, he said, jail administrators placed him in a single cell to separate him from other inmates.
"We thought he would make a court appearance and then go right back to Lansing," Anderson said. "Then when it was determined that he was going to be staying longer, we moved him out of the single cell."
ANDERSON said it's uncommon for jailors to place an inmate in solitary confinement if he or she is going to stay for several weeks and does not request a single cell. The sheriff said single cells are needed for inmates who request them or are mentally disturbed, extremely violent, intoxicated or otherwise unable to be in general population.
Anderson said overcrowding was the reason behind the jailor's decision to place the teen-ager in the suspect's cell. Anderson said crowding makes it hard for administrators to separate violent inmates from non-violent ones. Last Tuesday, for instance, the jail contained 77 inmates. The facility is designed to hold 52.
Creamer, who is serving a six-month term stemming from a Sept. 5, 1989, incident in which he smoked marijuana at the Law Enforcement Center to protest President Bush's anti-drug policies, said his cell usually is overcrowded.
"We've averaged two people on the floor since I've been in here," he said of his cell, which contains six bunks. Extra inmates sleep on mattresses on the floor.
CREAMER SAID the rape also wouldn't have occurred if jailors had enforced a rule barring inmates from hanging blankets on their bunks or cell doors.
"There's supposed to be a ban on that," he said. "But there are so many rules that they can't enforce them all at one time."
Anderson said another problem is that the jail's design inhibits jailers from monitoring inmates in their lockdown cells, where inmates are locked in individually at night. Monitor cameras are positioned so that only each block's day room, where inmates are allowed to gather, can be seen.
Anderson said administrators have tried to reposition the cameras but have been unable to solve the monitoring problem.
Creamer wrote that the only solution to the problems is to upgrade and expand the jail.
"IDEALLY, prisoners would be screened and warehoused according to their degree of dangerousness," he wrote. "(The) jail is too small and too overcrowded to accommodate selective placement, and prisoners are put where there is room at the time."
Small wrote that he hoped the victim would file a suit against the county, which would force local residents to notice the problems.
"The pain and suffering he experienced is no doubt so severe most of us would do almost anything to avoid it," he wrote, "and since the jail personnel knew they were putting him in harm's way, I think even larger punitive damages are appropriate."