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Editorials

There's no room for sexual assault — even in jail

| Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 10:39 a.m.
A woman who wishes to remain anonymous poses for a portrait outside the Allegheny County Jail on May 30, 2017. She filed a lawsuit against the jail last year after she says she was sexually assaulted by a guard there.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
A woman who wishes to remain anonymous poses for a portrait outside the Allegheny County Jail on May 30, 2017. She filed a lawsuit against the jail last year after she says she was sexually assaulted by a guard there.

No one deserves to be sexually assaulted.

Not at home.

Not at work.

Not at school.

Not even in jail.

Yet the possibility that female inmates could be the target of sexual assaults emerged this week in an eye-opening Trib investigation.

The investigation revealed that the Allegheny County Jail, where about 300 of roughly 2,400 inmates are women, is violating a federal law created to thwart predators from finding their next victim.

The violations are nothing short of appalling, if anything because they are easy to fix. The most alarming is the jail's decision to allow blind spots that block the jail's camera system from viewing key spots throughout the facility.

Those spots include entrances to cells where three women who sued the jail said they were sexually assaulted by a former guard.

Officials have also failed to publicly report what they know about sexual misconduct at the jail and what they're doing to correct any problems. They've allowed two years to go by without meeting a deadline to show they're meeting a law that took effect in 2013.

It doesn't matter how many women have sued the jail.

What matters is that, by ignoring the law, Allegheny County is turning a blind eye to women who are alleging misconduct by county employees.

The #MeToo movement has proven that we live in a world in which preying on women is unacceptable. Crude and inappropriate behavior, such as the one described by female inmates at the Allegheny County Jail, should never be tolerated under any circumstances.

It's not enough for jail warden Orlando Harper to say he has a “tight lid” on the problem. He — and other county officials all the way up to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald — need to follow the law.

Public rage about sexual assault should not be reserved for select women. The standards should not be different for women of different backgrounds.

No woman should suffer the trauma of sexual harassment and violence. Not outside the jail.

And certainly not inside it.

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