Iowa City, IA — While some prisons let their inmates go on unsupervised beer runs, a maximum-security prison in Iowa is being sued for allowing inmates to watch obscene movies during their free time. A female officer at one of Iowa’s most dangerous prison units is filing a law suit, claiming that inmates sexually harass her after viewing permitted violent and sexually explicit movies.
The men housed in the unit where Kristine Sink works are mentally ill, convicted murderers and sexual predators amongst them. The unit is in Fort Madison’s maximum-security prison. The convicted sexual offenders, according to prison reports, are allowed to watch movies such as “Deranged,” a horror film that includes a scene in which a woman is beaten, raped, hung upside down and skinned. Other movies inmates watched were “Delta of Venus,” an erotic film; “Coffey,” which shows sadism and attempted rape; and “Cruel Intentions,” records show.
Kristine Sink filed repeated complaints with prison after being harassed for turning off offending films, that are shown in the prison’s community room where 45 men may watch at a time. The correctional officer complained to administrators that the violent nature of the films was not appropriate for the prison setting. However, administrators allegedly told Sink not to turn off the movies or shows. When she did, she was accused of insubordination. One warden even blamed the harassment on Sink’s clothing — a standard issue uniform — saying that her revealing outfit was “enticing” inmates.
For four years, Sink has reportedly fought a “lonely battle” under four wardens against movies and shows that she claims caused inmates to be sexually aggressive.
“It’s inconceivable. If I had not lived through it myself, I wouldn’t believe this,” she said.
Sink started working at the prison in 2003. She notes that while watching the violent movies or films, many of the inmates masturbate openly and make sexually harassing comments to her in the prison’s common area, where men can gather to watch the films.
After years of filing complaints, prison officials finally acted upon her request in September 2011 to ban movies with sexually explicit content. However, the inmates allegedly blamed Sink, subjecting her to insults and threats to beat or even kill her. One inmate threw urine on her.
Despite the threats, Sink’s management refused to move her to a different location within the prison. It took more than a year for her to finally be moved to a desk job, in December of 2012.
She has now filed a lawsuit against the prison, asking an unspecified amount in damages. “No private employer could get away with this,” she notes.
Sink first wrote to then-Warden John Ault in 2007, after a showing of the film “Deranged.” Sink wrote, “What are we saying to the sex offenders that are already convicted of these crimes and then we provide them visual viewing to fantasize about or to act upon.” She told him she has been waiting for management “to fix this wrong and make it right for over four years.”
Ault responded by reportedly labeling Sink as the trouble-maker in the situation, writing, “I question who here has created a ‘more hostile environment to work in’ or an ‘unsecured environment to work in’, as you call it.” He continued:
“I cannot disagree with you that some of the scenes in movies have shown sexual violence, especially those involving females, and should not have been shown, and we believe we have tightened up the process to lessen the likelihood of such movies being shown. We must remember, however, that we are an institution of adult males, and much of what we show can be seen on general television broadcasts.”
Department spokesman Fred Scaletta allegedly said he couldn’t comment on Sink’s suit.
What do you think of Sink’s complaint and the prison’s response?