Women Standing

Levy Konigsberg Investigating Valley State Prison for Women Sex Abuse Claims

Levy Konigsberg is currently investigating claims from former female inmates who were sexually abused while incarcerated at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) in Chowchilla, California.

VVSPW is one of many California female jails and prisons that’s faced decades of alleged and substantiated claims of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse, as well as claims that prison leadership knew about the problem, but failed to stop it.

Now, former female inmates abused at VSPW are stepping forward thanks to AB 2777, a new California law that creates a temporary 1-year window (January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023) and an extended statute of limitations for survivors to bring claims over abuse that occurred years or decades ago.

If you were sexually abused while incarcerated at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) in Chowchilla, CA, we want to help. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online to request a FREE and confidential consultation.

Leading the Fight for Sexually Abused Female Inmates

Levy Konigsberg is a nationally renowned civil trial practice with a reputation for handling some of the country’s most complex and consequential cases. We’ve won millions for sex abuse victims and have prevailed in claims against the perpetrators as well as the powerful institutions that enabled and covered up the abuse.

Now, we are leading the fight representing women who were sexually abused by staff while they were incarcerated at jails and prisons across the country. This includes facilities throughout California and New York, where groundbreaking laws have opened new legal pathways for survivors to seek justice.

Reasons why we’re trusted by clients and colleagues:

  • Over $3 billion in compensation recovered for clients.
  • Proven results and millions in verdicts and settlements for sex abuse victims.
  • Record-setting recoveries in some of the nation’s most complex and high-profile cases.
  • Award-winning trial lawyers named in Super Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in America.

Learn more about our work representing female sex abuse victims in California prisons or read the NY Daily News’ coverage of one our cases against the prison system.

Report Reveals Rampant Abuse, Cover-Ups at Valley State Prison for Women

Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) was a female-only prison in Chowchilla, CA that first opened in 1995. In 2013, the prison was converted to an all-male facility and its name was changed to Valley State Prison. It was located adjacent to the Central California Women's Facility (CCWF), which continues to operate as an all-women facility. VSPW and CCWF housed over 7,000 female inmates, making it one of the largest women’s prison complexes in the world, and the largest in the U.S.

Since its opening in 1995 and through its conversion in 2013, VSPW faced numerous allegations of sexual abuse involving male staff and female inmates, as well as reports of human rights violations and a toxic culture in which prison leadership overwhelmingly failed to prevent abuse.

One of the most important resources on the abuses at VSPW come from a 1999 report from human rights organization Amnesty International. As documented in the report, two of the organization’s delegates visited VSPW after receiving reports of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse. At the time of the visit, several VSPW guards were under investigation for sexual misconduct, including alleged rape.

Some of the report’s notable findings and concerns:

Sexual Abuse and Violation of Human Rights

Only 25-27% of staff at VSPW were female, with the “overwhelming majority” of custody and supervisory staff being male. Most female staff were deployed in administration, nursing, and teaching roles.

This was a significant violation of international human rights standards, which provide that female inmates should be supervised only by female officers and that male staff offering services to female inmates should be accompanied by women officers. The report noted additional concerns:

  • Male staff had nearly unrestricted access to all parts of the prison, including areas such as living quarters, areas where inmates would dress and undress, and areas with showers or toilets.
  • Female inmates reported it was common for male staff to touch their breasts and genitals when conducting pat-down searches.
  • Female inmates reported being disturbed by having routine pelvic exams and other intimate procedures performed by male doctors. It was further alleged that some women believed they were subjected to unnecessary pelvic exams by one particular male doctor, but feared that filing a complaint would affect their ability to receive care in an emergency.

Investigation of Inmate Complaints

Amnesty International had several concerns regarding VSPW’s policies and procedures for handling inmate complaints, as well as alleged retaliation and intimidation by prison staff. For example:

  • Some inmates reported that staff conducted repeated searches and verbally harassed and intimidated female inmates in retaliation for filing complaints. One official alleged that some staff would also face retaliation for reporting misconduct.
  • While VSP’s policy required serious allegations involving abuse and assault to be reviewed by the Warden and promptly investigated, many inmates stated their complaints were often ignored and that they received no updates about the outcomes. The report noted that the prison had no “adequate, formalized procedure for tracking and monitoring complaints.”

As part of its report, Amnesty International compiled several recommendations for VSPW to improve its policies and procedures. This included the implementation of measures to avoid male staff being deployed in sensitive areas, areas where they can see into showers, and areas where female inmates are being strip searched.

VSPW & DOC Leadership Knew of Inmate Sex Abuse

The report and Amnesty International’s recommendations were sent to the head of the Department of Corrections (DOC) in California in March 1999, as evidenced by a copy of the letter included the report.

This letter provides compelling evidence that VSPW administrators, the VSPW Warden, and the head of the California DOC knew about the problems of sexual abuse at Valley State Prison for Women and the conditions and procedures that allowed and enabled this abuse at least as far back as 1999 and likely earlier.

This is a significant finding for survivors who were abused during their time at VSPW – as California AB 2777 allows for the revival of certain time-barred claims when a responsible entity or their agents engaged in a cover up.

Your Rights Under CA AB 2777

California recognized that there needed to be a fair opportunity for sexual abuse survivors to come forward and file claims- even those that occurred years or even decades ago. Sexual abuse often involves secrecy, threats of retaliation and complex emotional and psychological issues relating to a survivor’s battle to understand their abuse and speak out.

To remedy these issues unique to sexual abuse cases, California has enacted AB 2777, a groundbreaking measure signed into law in September 2022. Sexual assault and abuse survivors in California are now able to file lawsuits during a temporary lookback window or expanded statute of limitations. The law applies to sexual abuse that occurred when the victim was an adult (age 18 or older). Your options for pursuing a claim under AB 2777 will depend on the facts of your situation. For example:

  • If your assault or abuse occurred after January 1, 2009, you have until December 31, 2026 to file a claim.
  • If you were assaulted or abused before January 1, 2009, you may still be able to file a claim during a temporary 1-year lookback window from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023. For these pre-2009 lawsuits, there must be some evidence of an attempt to “cover up” the sexual abuse in order to qualify for the 1-year filing window. “Cover up” includes any efforts to silence victims of sexual abuse or other attempts to keep the information from becoming public.

The lookback window and new filing period means that survivors with otherwise time-barred claims may now be able to pursue justice and compensation for abuse that occurred years or even decades ago.

Because there is a limited amount of time and because your eligibility must be carefully reviewed, we encourage you to bring your case to the attention of our team as soon as possible.

Call For a FREE Consultation: (800) 315-3806

Levy Konigsberg can evaluate your potential claim and your eligibility to take legal action during a FREE and confidential consultation.

Our firm is a leader in litigating claims involving women who were sexually abused while they were incarcerated in jails and prisons. Prison staff who sexually abused female inmates and the Department of Corrections must be held accountable for this systematic and outrageous abuse of power. We are available to discuss how we can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us to get started.

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