Prison guard says graphic films incited harassment

AP News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2014 7:36 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A female guard suing the state over an Iowa prison's practice of showing sexually graphic movies to rapists and sex offenders was told that sexual harassment from inmates was an unfortunate condition of her employment, her attorney said Thursday.

Kristine Sink, who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in November 2012, says the Iowa Department of Corrections allowed violent prison inmates to be shown movies depicting women being tortured and raped and erotic programs showing explicit sexual content. She alleges that the images encouraged inmates to harass and threaten her.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Tyler Smith, representing the state, acknowledged during closing arguments that it was a mistake to show such movies, but said officials dealt appropriate with Sink's issues.

"There were sporadic errors but those movies were pulled and the process was fixed. It is not perfect. It is not pretty, but it is not harassment," he said.

A jury of four women and four men began deliberating the case Thursday afternoon.

Sink says she endured inmates masturbating at her, threatening to kill her, and on one occasion she was doused with an inmate's urine. She alleges supervisors allowed inmate harassment to continue over a period of years during which supervisors belittled her complaints and co-workers harassed her.

Her attorney, Paige Fielder, said that Sink was also told by one supervisor that she was a beautiful women working in a men's prison and she should "expect that someone would want to rape you."

"In some ways the Iowa State Penitentiary is still acting like it's 1979," Fielder told the jury. "These are things you just don't hear anymore."

No taxpayer dollars were used to provide the movies or the television on which they were viewed. Inmate funds paid for them, Smith said. He explained they were a tool for the officers to use to give inmates something to look at to occupy their time.

Fielder said Sink documented at least 15 written threats from inmates, including threats of murder, beating and rape.

She has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and experiences nightmares and fear similar to post-traumatic stress disorder faced by soldiers in battle, Fiedler said. She told jurors $4.5 million for past and present emotional distress is fair compensation.

The jury can award any damages it deems appropriate.