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Female prison in Oklahoma has highest rape rate in U.S.

A federal report placed the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center at the top of the list for sexual violence in female prisons, however, due to a pending lawsuit state Corrections Department officials declined to testify at a Department of Justice hearing on the matter this week.
by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: January 12, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: January 12, 2014

The suit claims surveillance cameras in certain parts of the women's prison “were either not properly installed in the area or kept in an ongoing state of disrepair,” and the state Corrections Department and high-level administrators at Mabel Bassett are accused of allowing the assaults through negligence.

Rickey Moham, current warden at Mabel Bassett, declined to comment on whether or not the cameras in question were in fact broken or have been repaired or if any procedure or policy has been changed as a result of the lawsuit.

Millicent Newton-Embry was the facility's warden at the time of the alleged assaults, and she and the facility's current Deputy Warden Carla King are named in the suit. Newton-Embry now serves as the agency's coordinator for the Prison Rape Elimination Act. She did not return calls for comment on how the act is implemented at the facility.

Alex Weintz, spokesman for the governor, said another reason the department declined to testify was its lack of a permanent director.

“The governor's office and the Department of Corrections offered to answer written questions to ensure that we were answering their questions and providing accurate and complete information,” Weintz said. “We also indicated to the DOJ that when the department has a permanent director we could make the director available to the DOJ to answer more questions. That offer was declined.”

Ed Evans was named interim director after Justin Jones stepped down as the department's executive director late last year. The Oklahoma Board of Corrections interviewed candidates for the position Wednesday and Thursday.

The prison has made efforts to educate inmates on how to report incidents, including hanging posters and providing orientation on the issue to new prisoners, Massie said.

“We have emphasized for years the need for inmates to report those,” he said. “So, we hope the climate exists where inmates feel that if they report it, it will be taken seriously.”

by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch, where he covered areas such as immigration and drug addiction, he went...
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