Report: State failed to protect female inmates from sexual abuse

For more than a decade, the state has failed to protect inmates at Florida’s largest women’s prison from sexual abuse by the staff, according to a report released by federal officials on Tuesday.

The investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Florida federal prosecutors found reasonable cause to believe “varied and disturbing reports” of sexual abuse — including rape — by sergeants, correctional officers and other staff at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala.

The 34-page report of the investigation, which began in 2018, also noted that state Department of Corrections officials have documented and been aware of sexual abuse at Lowell since at least 2006.

“Lowell has a long history of tolerance for sexual abuse and harassment, which continues to the present,” the report said. “In interviews with the department prisoners spoke of sex between staff and prisoners as a regular event, suggesting a normalization of sexual abuse by staff. Some current and former staff made similar representations.”

The Florida Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Eric Dreiban, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the investigation determined the

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