A former nurse at Oregon’s single women’s prison has been indicted for sexually assaulting a dozen women while they were incarcerated, according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed Monday.
The nurse, Tony Daniel Klein, is facing 21 counts of “depriving the victims of their constitutional right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by sexually assaulting them.” In the indictment, Klein stands accused of sexually assaulting the women on multiple occasions in 2016 and 2017.
He’s also facing four counts of perjury, in connection to a 2019 deposition for a lawsuit that accused Klein of sexual misconduct.
Klein has turned himself in to the FBI and pleaded not guilty to all of the counts, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Monday. If he’s convicted, Klein could spend the rest of his life in prison.
These accusations didn’t come out of nowhere: Oregon police, the Oregon Department of Corrections, Oregon’s nursing board, and the Washington County District Attorney’s Office have all investigated allegations of sexual misconduct made against Klein, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. In 2020, Oregon paid out $1.7 million to settle civil lawsuits brought by 10 women who said the state failed to keep them safe from Klein. No one admitted fault in the settlement.
The U.S. incarceration system is rife with sexual assault. In 2018, prison officials recorded nearly 28,000 allegations of sexual victimization in adult correctional facilities, according to a survey released by the Department of Justice in June 2021. There were almost 6,000 allegations of “staff sexual misconduct” and roughly 4,600 allegations of “staff sexual harassment” in such facilities in 2018.
Women, in particular, report being victims of sexual violence while behind bars. Between 2009 and 2011, women made up just about 13 percent of people held in local jails, according to another Justice Department report. However, they accounted for 67 percent of the victims of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization, and 27 percent of the victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, that same report found. Women in jail also report experiencing staggering amounts of violence in their life: 86 percent say they’ve experienced sexual violence at some point in their lifetime, the Vera Institute of Justice reported in 2016.
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In a 2017-2018 survey of women incarcerated at the prison where Klein worked, 66 women responded to questions about their histories of trauma. Approximately 75 percent said they had been sexually abused as children or teenagers, while about 55 percent said they’d been sexually abused as adults.
Corrections Department Director Colette S. Peters said that the indictment against Klein “shows that the voices of women in custody are heard and taken seriously.”
“DOC has zero tolerance for sexual violence against the people in our care and allegations will not be swept under the rug or ignored regardless of whether the person accused is no longer employed by our Department,” she said in a statement reported by NBC News. “Now the federal criminal justice system can rightly deal with these serious allegations.”
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