TROY, Va. – The Associated Press is reporting that for over a year the largest women’s prison in Virginia was rounding up inmates who have “loose-fitting clothes, short hair or otherwise masculine looks,” and isolating them in a special block referred to by corrections officers as the “butch wing.”
According to both inmates and officers, the reason given for the segregation of “dozens” of inmates at the 1,200-inmate Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women was to split-up relationships and curb illegal sex among inmates.
All sexual activity, whether consensual or not, is forbidden in prison, ostensibly to protect against the spread of disease. The courts have even upheld the practice of segregating gay inmates in men’s prisons, but have ruled against punitive actions such as solitary confinement.
The AP quotes two current guards at the facility and one former employee – along with dozens of first-hand accounts by inmates – as indicating that a de facto policy of isolation was in place at Fluvanna.
“Gradually, they said, the 60-inmate wing was filled with women targeted because of their appearance. The current employees asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs,” the AP reports.
Fluvanna Warden Barbara Wheeler denied that any policy of segragation was in force, saying it was a figment of the inmates’ imaginations.
“With female offenders, relationships are very important, and often times when they’re separated from those relationships they might perceive it as punitive,” Wheeler said.
Casey Lynn Toney, pictured, one of the segregated inmates, disagreed, saying she and others were routinely verbally harassed by staff.
“Point blank, this institution is ran by homophobes, and the rules instated here are based on your sexual preference not what is right or wrong,” wrote inmate,” she said.
The AP says that because of its investigation into reports coming out of the prison, the practice was recently stopped.