Bulls Behaving Badly

Inmates blow the whistle on male guards at a Pueblo women's prison.

Yet Darbyshire wasn't sure how best to help Gardesani: "She begged me not to tell. I felt so horrible. Here I am, working with Stop Prisoner Rape, and she was saying he was going to do something if I tell. So I was torn. I felt like I let her down."

In late January, another inmate did go to the authorities about Gardesani's situation. Assured by a female lieutenant that she would be protected from Anderson, Gardesani told her story and agreed to meet with an investigator from Inspector General Rulo's office. The investigator was highly skeptical of her account.

"The first thing he said was, 'You need to convince me that what you say is true,'" Gardesani recalls. "When he say that, I get up and say, 'I don't have to convince you of anything. I didn't ask to be here. I want to go back.'"

Full disclosure: Robin Darbyshire (inset) advised 
fellow prisoner Elizabeth Gardesani after she was 
allegedly raped by a guard.
Full disclosure: Robin Darbyshire (inset) advised fellow prisoner Elizabeth Gardesani after she was allegedly raped by a guard.

The investigator soon softened his tone. He had paperwork that indicated Anderson had changed his shift on several occasions so he could work Gardesani's floor, but the situation came down to her word against that of a corrections officer, he explained. To make a solid case, Gardesani would have to get Anderson to admit the encounters on tape.

Gardesani agreed. She was outfitted with the equipment and arranged to meet with Anderson alone in the shift office. "What I was feeling, you can't even imagine," she says. "It was horrible. If he really wants to touch me, he will. But I want to bust him. I want them to take him away from us inmates.

"I went in there and talked to him. I told him he was different with me. I think he was surprised the way I talk to him, because I never talked about what happened between us. I said to him, 'I think you're being cold with me.' I had to come up with some things to tape. I had to mention all the days we had sex.

"He said, 'Please, nobody has to know that.' But he said yes, he remembered this and that. His only worry was losing his job. He speak very, very low."

Shortly after the investigator reviewed the tape, Anderson was escorted off the grounds. He has since resigned. Two weeks ago, he was formally charged with sexual contact in a penal institution by a public employee, a minor felony. Interviews with other inmates produced other cases. Another former Pueblo Minimum Center guard, Alvin Saiz, 48, has been charged in connection with an alleged sexual relationship with another female inmate; in that case, investigators claim to have actual audio and video clips from surveillance of the prisoner's cell.

A third male guard has also left the employment of the DOC as a result of the probe. Rulo says the evidence in that case indicated an "inappropriate" relationship that didn't rise to the level of sexual misconduct. Two others have been transferred. Inmates say the relationships ranged from flirtations to coerced or forced sex acts to favors dispensed in return for money being put in inmates' accounts for canteen purchases.

Rulo points out that a tough "prison love bill" passed by the legislature in 2000 raises the stakes for any sexual contact between DOC staff and inmates, whether it's consensual or not. "Coercion is not an issue," he says. "Any sexual contact at all is a felony."

Anderson and Saiz could not be reached for comment. A DOC audit of the prison triggered by the investigation found numerous complaints among staff and inmates about conduct problems associated chiefly with the graveyard shift, including: "male staff engaged in sex-based comments directed at inmates...male staff allowed female inmates to enter and spend excessive amount of time in shift offices...female inmates not wearing proper attire...staff bring in soft contraband items such as cookies and other food items and share them with inmates...staff sit and listen to the intimate details of inmates' personal lives...inmates seem to know too much personal information about particular staff members."

More than one third of the staff at the women's prison are males. A few other state prison systems have gone to gender-based supervision schemes in the wake of various sexual-misconduct lawsuits and scandals; after a series of assault cases involving teenage girls and adult male guards, Colorado's own Youthful Offender System now uses only female guards to supervise female inmates ("Prisoners of Sex," March 6, 2003). But DOC spokeswoman Alison Morgan says the state adult prison system will continue to rely on appropriate screening and training of staff to minimize the problem.

"We probably have a hundred allegations [of sexual misconduct] a year," Morgan says. "Many times, it's not enough to put someone on leave or terminate them. We tell them we expect a level of professionalism, and it's still frustrating and disappointing when we have staff who fall below that level."

News of the Anderson bust moved quickly through the prison. One guard on the night shift told a group of inmates about Gardesani's undercover work; many disapproved of her wearing a wire and acting as a "snitch," possibly because they had relationships with staff themselves. Gardesani was soon moved to another prison.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help