By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
DOC officials have maintained that they handled Hill's complaint appropriately by assigning him to another shift and ordering Perry to cease harassing him. They also claim that Perry had no "chain-of-command authority" over Hill. (Hill disputes this: If he'd failed to follow a sergeant's order, he says, he'd be guilty of insubordination.) Yet an early memo on the case, from Major Stephen Schuh to prison superintendent Mike Williams, recommended transferring Perry to another prison. "DOC could be defenseless if no action to separate the staff by facilities occurs," Schuh wrote.
The transfer never occurred. Instead, in three weeks, Hill and Perry were back on the same shift. Hill says the harassment continued to escalate over the following ten months, at times putting him in physical danger. Corrections officers depend heavily upon their colleagues in various daily situations, and Hill claims that Perry would abruptly close electronically operated doors on him, separating him from others -- even bruising his shoulder one time.
"She would throw my keys out on the floor, and I'd have to bend down to pick them up," he says. "She would give me a radio with dead batteries. When I would call in to get some back-up, she'd let me sit for fifteen minutes. She was really causing me a lot of problems."
"Caught Off Guard,"
February 6, 1997
Sex harassment in the state prison system is no joke. So why is this man laughing?
For her part, Perry filed complaints that Hill was harassing her by not providing proper perimeter patrol and other duties. Hill says he was discouraged from filing a formal grievance for months by his supervisor, who kept promising to take care of the situation. The last straw, he says, came when other female staff and then inmates began taunting him about having one testicle.
"One day I passed a group of about twenty inmates," Hill says, "and one of them said, 'Hey, One Nut!' I turned around and looked, but what are you going to do? Another day I'm in the control center and a female officer says to me, 'So I hear you only got one nut.' What business is it of hers?"
Hill is convinced that Perry was the source of the information about his missing testicle, which he'd lost in an accidental self-inflicted shooting during his brief career as a sheriff's deputy. That inmates knew about it was especially alarming, he says, because of the vulnerability of male guards to sexual assault claims by female prisoners: "All any inmate had to do was to file a sexual misconduct charge against me and tell [investigators] that I had only one testicle, then who's going to believe me?"
Perry denies telling anyone about Hill's condition or even being aware of it before he launched his accusations against her. "There isn't one inmate who can say I ever said anything about Mike Hill," she says. "I knew nothing about it. He bragged to other people about it, that he was this macho cop and his parts had been blown off by somebody. If he wanted it kept so secret, I don't know why he was doing that."
But two female staffers interviewed by the DOC's investigator say that Perry told them about Hill's missing testicle, and Hill is adamant that he never talked about his injury. "That is so private," he says. "I never told nobody. Would you?"
Hill took several days off from work when he learned that his secret had become a joke among prisoners. On the day that he was supposed to return, he says, he "just started bawling" on the way to work and drove to his doctor's office instead. Over the next few months he was diagnosed with "situational anxiety, adjustment disorder with irritability, anxiety and depression."
Although a battery of psychologists and workers' comp doctors recommended that he have no further contact with inmates, the Colorado Compensation Insurance Authority denied his disability claim. When his sick leave was exhausted, the DOC fired him because he refused to return to his old post, insisting on a transfer to a position that would accommodate his "mental disability."
One reason the DOC took the position that Hill didn't need a transfer was that Debra Perry no longer worked for the agency. Perry left a few weeks before Hill took his leave; she says she took a voluntary disability retirement as a result of the long-term effects of her car accident. Hill has a letter from superintendent Williams assuring him that if she ever attempted to return to DOC employment, "she would immediately face disciplinary action up to and including termination for her actions" in the harassment case.
Hill says the department never treated his complaints with the seriousness they deserved. "I just don't think they care," he says. "They don't consider men as being capable of being sexually harassed in the workplace by a woman."
The double standard extends to prisoners, too, he insists. Although male officers are severely disciplined for any physical contact with female prisoners -- they're not even allowed to conduct pat-down searches -- Hill argues that the situation doesn't work in reverse. He says a female inmate once squeezed his behind; far from being disciplined, the inmate was transferred to a minimum-security prison and was never charged. "If a male inmate walked up to a female staff member and squeezed the cheek of her ass, what do you think would happen?" Hill asks. "His feet wouldn't even touch the ground between where that happened and lockup."