LA Jail ‘Allowed Offenders to Roam the Hallways’

After a teen inmate said she was raped, an investigation founded unlocked doors at the chronically understaffed Louisiana detention center.

The scandal at Louisiana’s Union Parish Detention Center began with the routine medical screening of a 17-year-old bipolar female inmate detoxing from methamphetamine in an isolation cell. A nurse asked the girl, booked on burglary counts, whether she ever had been the victim of sexual assault. “I was raped last night,”she replied. “Check the cameras if you don’t believe me.” An investigation revealed a staggering collapse of security in the facility, a chronically understaffed lockup that investigators said was made more perilous by poor training and the reluctance of jailers to report criminal activity to local law enforcement, The Advocate reports. A state audit found that the jail had “several doors which should have been secured that were unlocked and allowed offenders to roam the hallways without strict security supervision.”

At least three guards were disciplined for policy violations following the alleged rape. Nearly two years after it took over the case from local prosecutors, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office last month said it would not bring charges against Demarcus Payton, a prisoner already convicted of rape who managed not only to enter the 17-year-old’s cell but to remain inside for seven minutes without a guard intervening. Payton, 28 at the time, admitted to having sex with the girl but insisted it was consensual. Payton had been found guilty of raping another woman he did not know at knife point; he is serving life in prison for the rape. The criminal investigation turned up serious problems with the classification of inmates at the Union Parish jail, which typically houses more than 200 state prisoners, twice the number of local pre-trial inmates. State corrections inspectors noted an inappropriate “sight and sound protocol” for male and female inmates, “who were being detained in the same room for classification interviews.”