OCALA, Fla. (WESH) — The United States Department of Justice on Tuesday released a scathing report alleging that Florida’s largest women’s prison, located in Ocala, has repeatedly failed to protect inmates from being sexually assaulted by staff.
As part of an investigation that dates to 2018, the DOJ said it found that the Florida Department of Corrections has documented and been aware of a pattern or practice of staff sexual abuse of Lowell Correctional Institution prisoners since at least 2006.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida on Tuesday said that there is reasonable cause to believe that the conditions at Lowell violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment.
The department also said there is reasonable cause to believe that Lowell still fails to protect prisoners from sexual abuse by the facility’s staff.
Lowell is the oldest women’s prison in Florida, having opened in 1956, and is the largest women’s prison in the country.
“Our investigation found that staff sexually abused women incarcerated at Lowell and that these women remain at substantial risk of sexual abuse by staff. Our investigation also found