Trigger warnings for sexual abuse, sexual assault, abuse of power.
UPLC won an immense victory for a woman who suffered terribly while she was in Illinois’ Logan prison.
From August 2016 through February 2017, Jane Doe was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by her counselor at Logan prison. Her counselor, Richard Macleod, worked in the Women & Family Services Center, and was the gatekeeper for Jane to call her six-year-old daughter. Macleod used those opportunities to coerce sex and sexual acts with Jane, including masturbating in front of her while she was on the phone with her daughter. This occurred while other prison staff were in the room..
Jane was understandably afraid to come forward with what was happening, worried she would lose the ability to call her daughter. The prison’s warden, Margaret Burke, and head investigator, Todd Sexton received what they admitted was a credible report from Jane’s cellmate about the assaults in December 2016. However, they failed to investigate it or even assign Jane a different counselor.
Jane filed her case with UPLC support (alongside our co-counsel at Kirkland & Ellis, and Quinn Emanuel) shortly after being released from prison in 2018. We alleged that the conduct of counselor Macleod, warden Burke, and investigator Sexton violated her Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
Numerous staff emails as well as trial testimony reflects a culture of rampant sexual abuse and overall disregard for prisoners’ wellbeing at Logan prison:
- Investigator Sexton admitted at trial that most sexual abuse cases were investigated because staff had reported them, not because people in the prison did. He testified that standard policy at Logan is that if a prisoner reported sexual assault against a staff member, and the staff member disagreed, the investigations unit would consider the report “unsubstantiated” and close the case.
- At trial, the evidence showed that prison rapes could have been prevented if cameras were up over the entire prison campus; instead, there were large blind spots, including in the building where Richard Macleod worked as a counselor. Via a federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) grant, Logan had received cameras, but they were never installed, because the electrician in charge was also sexually assaulting women. (He has since been criminally prosecuted.)
- The investigation into the original complaint was wrong from start to finish. Logan’s investigator Todd Sexton admitted in court that he didn’t follow Logan’s policies regarding sexual assault in prison (mandated by the federal PREA law), such as immediately separating a sexual assault survivor from her abuser, having medical and mental health professionals examine the survivor, and collecting evidence. Instead, he admitted and agreed in open court that he tried to use Jane as “bait” to catch the rapist in the act. Sexton described an “investigation” where he tried to climb into the ceiling to try to “catch” the rape while it was happening. After three attempts he was unable to do this, and pursued no further action. The warden admitted in court that she was aware of Sexton’s plan to use Jane as bait, and even authorized it.
- A woman staff member at Logan filed a sexual harassment complaint against Macleod in August 2017, which included allegations that he repeatedly tried to talk her into having sex with him while at work, would grab his crotch around her, made disturbing and sexually explicit comments throughout the work day, and told her he was “a stalker” and would find out where she lived. Only after this extremely disturbing report by a member of the Logan staff did the investigator and warden finally interview Jane Doe and confirm the sexual assaults. However, the staff member who made the report (not her rapist) was punished by being transferred to another facility, causing her to lose her college credits and her job.
After a week of a trial where almost everyone in the courtroom (besides the defendants and their attorneys) showed a lot of emotion, particularly when listening to Jane’s testimony, the jury awarded her a very large verdict. A jury of nine everyday people, not prisoners’ rights activists, agreed that what happened to Jane was a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which protects people in this country from cruel and unusual punishment. This is an amazing victory for Jane, and also the case has allowed a light to shine on the unethical and harrowing culture of disregard for the women held at Logan prison.