June 25, 2008

The Kaselehlie Press

Pohnpei, FSM - Two women arrested for theft of property and detained at the Pohnpei State Jail pending trial for the crimes that they are accused of committing have accused five correctional officers of violations of their civil rights.

The women, whose names are being withheld due to the sensitive nature of the charges they have brought against the State allege that four Pohnpei State Correctional Officers were admitted to their cell by the female officer who held the key to the cell.

The women claim that the four male officers had intimate contact with them against their will.

Pohnpei State Chief of Corrections Yoster Donre said that the five officers, one female and four male, have been suspended pending an investigation into the matter. He said that if the charges are substantiated the officers' employment at the jail will be terminated permanently. The case is still under investigation.

When asked if criminal charges could be filed against the Correctional Officers, Chief Donre said that he couldn't answer that question as it would be a matter for the State Attorney General to decide.

Pohnpei Attorney Martin Jano has filed a "Notice of Claim" at the Pohnpei State Attorney General's office on behalf of the women. According to Jano the Pohnpei State Government has 50 days under State law from the date of the claim to take administrative action before a lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the incarcerated women.

This is not the first time that charges of civil rights abuses for sexual misconduct have been leveled at the Pohnpei State Jail by female detainees.

Jano is currently representing another female client in an ongoing lawsuit against Pohnpei State that alleges another incidence of unwanted intimate contact with a correctional officer within the jail.

Jano said that it is normal for males to react to females when they inhabit the same place at the same time. "It's only natural," said Jano. He claimed that the Pohnpei State Jail facility and the handling of female prisoners at the jail are the problems and that those two factors give rise to an increased likelihood that female prisoners might become the victims of sexual misconduct. He claimed that there are no facilities to separate males and females at the jail. He told us that there are no separate bathroom or shower facilities, and there is no separate wing for detention of women at the jail.

Unless or until the correctional officers are cleared of the charges leveled at them there will only be two female officers at the Pohnpei State Jail. A female officer must always be on the premises when there are female detainees in the jail.