Former inmates at a Los Angeles county prison allege a range of sexual abuses by employees from overt assault to subtle misconduct made easy by the toxic power dynamics
In 2011, Michele Infante was incarcerated for close to six months at the Century regional detention facility in Lynwood, California, a small city adjacent to Compton and Watts. The facility is Los Angeles countys only jail designated for women and sprawls across an industrial zone in the shadow of the Imperial Highway.
Infante, now 58, says she was sexually assaulted and sexually abused by two different employees at Lynwood, as the jail is known locally.
As she recalls, one day in late September 2011, after Infante had been at Lynwood for around five months, a deputy walked to the door of her cell and told her to come with him. He led her to what looked like an unused classroom in an empty wing of the jail, she said, pushed her against the wall and raped her.
When I went back to my room, I just remember crying. I didnt get a shower for a couple of days, so I just felt so dirty and filthy, she said. She didnt have an extra pair of underwear to change into after the assault, and didnt tell anyone what had happened. I just felt so alone and isolated and like I deserved it somehow.
Now an activist with the grassroots organization Dignity and Power Now, Infante has spent nearly every weekend for the past four years standing outside the main entrance to the Lynwood jail, talking to women just getting out about their experiences, how the deputies treated them, whether they were able to stay safe while locked up.
Its not the physical force women may experience so much as what she sees as the toxic power dynamics between prisoners and deputies at Lynwood that Infante worries about. The emotional fallout from her own time in lockup has left wounds that affect her close to eight years later.
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