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Prison is not meant to be an enjoyable experience. It is supposed to be a corrective one. Prison serves both as a form of punishment for those who have committed a crime and also a way of removing dangerous individuals from society. Unfortunately, while the law in the United States prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, many women often find themselves victimized cruelly while in prison.
Sexual assault of female prisoners is common and widespread. Assaults of male prisoners are common as well, but female prisoners are particularly vulnerable to male guards and prison employees. When they do speak out, people frequently dismiss them as lying or assume that they are exaggerating the experience.
People are all too quick to overlook the voices of women who have suffered abuse at the hands of power in this country. At Ladybud, we do our best to shine a light on the abuses of people who cannot defend themselves. It is heartbreaking to think that many women are subject to sexual violence and assault while in jail. Many others face coercive behaviors and threats that are tantamount to rape. This abuse of power removes a woman’s ability to freely consent by forcing her to choose between terrible consequences and sex acts that she does not wish to engage in or perform.
Luana Santos wound up in Lowell Correctional Institution, but had no idea about the cruel treatment she would endure during her incarceration. She was serving an eight-year sentence related to selling drugs. She eventually found herself the target of a prison predator, named Marty Martinez. He would sit in and watch the women exercise, targeting those he found attractive. That’s how he earned the nickname “Daddy.” Officials and higher-ups knew about his questionable behavior, but they did nothing.
In March 2014, that inaction had devastating consequences for Luana Santos. Martinez repeatedly tried to seduce her. Eventually he gave her a choice: she could fulfill his sexual wishes or she could face solitary confinement and lose out on any chance of an early release for good behavior. She eventually gave in, and despite her eventual release, suffered horrendously at the hands of Martinez and other prison staff, who would tease her about the ongoing sexual abuse.
Santos eventually brought a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections for the abuse she suffered. While Martinez was eventually fired, he has never been charged with a crime. There is enough evidence of misconduct to push the Florida DOC to settle several lawsuits with victims. Santos received a settlement for an undisclosed amount, but no amount of money can offset the damage and pain of habitual, institutionalized sexual abuse.
The tragedy here is that Santos was locked up for a non-violent drug offense, while the man who repeatedly abused his position of authority to assault and rape Santos and other women at the facility likely won’t see a single day behind bars. Fixing the broken War on Drugs could help reduce the number of women in prison and thus, the number of women who end up victimized by predators in the system.
For previous Ladybud articles about prison-related issues, click here.