Unequal Justice

At federal prisons across the country, guards are preying on inmates. FDC Miami is no different.

Ross claims she reported Pollack after the third or fourth assault to a psychologist who treated her at FDC Miami. Indeed, Ross's mental health records from the prison indicate that in October 2002 she reported being "sexually victimized by C.O. Pollack." Yet it was never investigated. In fact, prison officials viewed Ross as a troublemaker. She was placed into solitary confinement on the fifth floor after she got into a screaming match with one correctional officer. Ross claims the guard insulted her about her weight.

Pollack resigned on July 31, 2003, less than a month before his first-year anniversary. He cited personal reasons, according to his file. At the time of his resignation, he was under internal investigation for allegedly playing dice with inmates and bringing in contraband to sell and trade. During Ross's civil trial, Pollack emphatically denied he forced Ross to strip and play with herself. (Pollack, whose last listed address is a gated community in Miramar, could not be located for comment. A security guard would not allow New Times in without Pollack's permission. The home and cell phone numbers listed in his employee file have been disconnected.)

In November 2002, while in solitary, Ross met guard Charles Jenkins. The then-33-year-old guard had been with the prisons bureau since 1996. By all accounts the North Miami Beach native was an exemplary employee. In 2001 he earned three time-off awards "for your dedication and loyalty to the Custody Department," according to a memo in his personnel file. The same year he was given a Superior Performance Award.

Pat Kinsella
Pat Kinsella

But Ross says she saw a different side to Jenkins. "He was mean," she says. "He harassed my friend who was in another cell, calling her a bitch and a ho." Ross says she doesn't know why Jenkins insulted her pal. But she claims Jenkins promised he would stop bothering the other inmate if Ross let him "see that ass." Ross says she initially ignored Jenkins. "But then he started refusing to give me clean T-shirts, panties, socks, and uniforms," she says. "I had no choice but to do what he asked of me."

In order to get her basic necessities, Ross says she had to strip and play with herself while Jenkins watched 15 to 20 times between November 2002 and January 2003. In one instance, Ross says, Jenkins inserted his fingers in her vagina. Jenkins, who is still employed by the prisons bureau, declined comment. He has vehemently denied Ross's charges in sworn statements to investigators and a court deposition last year. "I don't even remember who she was," Jenkins insisted in his 2008 testimony.

She also accused another guard, Lt. Antonio Echevarria, a former drill sergeant who had been a federal corrections officer since 1992, of penetrating her vagina with his fingers on one occasion during the same two-month period. Yet, Ross concedes she did not immediately report the incidents involving Jenkins and Echevarria, who was in charge of the floor where Ross was incarcerated. "I was too scared," she explains. "After all, they had put me in the special housing unit because I was making noise about what was happening to me."

(Echevarria has repeatedly denied assaulting Ross. He declined comment for this story. "I've never touched any female inmate," Echevarria wrote in a 2004 affidavit to the Justice Department inspector general. He resigned from the prisons bureau in December 2006 after he was caught selling a gun to a police informant who was a convicted felon. A year later, Echevarria was convicted of disposing a firearm to a prohibited person. He served a year in lockup.)

On January 7, 2003, Ross returned to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, where she had first been sent after her conviction. She was brought back to Miami on August 13 of that same year to testify against her former lover Dowling, where she claims she endured another round of sexual abuse by Jenkins. Five months after the incident, Ross reported the abuse to Jenkins's superiors and then-warden Richard Stiff.

According to Ross's prison file, on December 8, 2003, she informed corrections supervisor Lt. Thomas Miller of her allegations. His job was to enforce the prisons bureau's rules and regulations inside FDC Miami, as well as report alleged misconduct by guards to the warden, the prisons bureau Office of Internal Affairs, and the DOJ Office of the Inspector General. After Ross submitted a written affidavit documenting her claims, Stiff referred the case to the bureau's internal affairs investigators.

Miller and the warden weren't the only prison employees aware of Ross's accusations. She also informed her psychologist, her case manager, and her counselor. "They knew what was going on but did nothing," she says. "Heck, Jenkins was already at my cell door 20 minutes after I reported him, telling me to be quiet and not to fucking tell on him."

Two days later, FDC Miami prison officials jotted down her allegations in a memo, which included an attachment noting Ross was "mentally ill." There are no documents in Ross's prison file indicating the internal affairs investigators followed up on her claims, not even a memorandum substantiating or dismissing her allegations. (Ross had suffered from documented mental illness for years. According to court documents, she was given Prozac and other tranquilizers in prison to help control her mood swings and to help her relax).

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