‘Tremendous’ prison overcrowding, rape and torture allegations leveled at ‘pink’ facilities
PENNSYLVANIA, N.Y. — “It’s the most horrendous thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Robert M. Parnall, a former director of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
“I’ve been to jail a lot, but this is the worst thing I have ever seen.”
The Parnalls, who are part of a coalition of former Parnals who have filed lawsuits alleging systemic abuse, are among a growing number of people who have taken to the streets of New York and Pennsylvania over the past several months demanding an end to the overcrowding and sexual assaults of female inmates at their state’s “pink” correctional facilities.
The Pernalls are part-time organizers of the “Stop Pink” protest, which is scheduled to take place at a prison in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
The coalition of Parnells, who have also filed lawsuits against the state and the Department of Correction, has been working since early January to pressure Governor Tom Wolf to take action to reform the overcrowded prisons.
The protests have been largely peaceful, and the state’s largest employer has made some concessions.
The “pinking” prisons, which house about a third of the state prison population, have been plagued by sexual abuse allegations and rape of female prisoners.
In December, the state announced that it would be opening a second prison in Pennsylvania, but the Parnell coalition was not pleased.
“We’re here today to say we won’t take it anymore,” Parnill said.
“We won’t let these prisons be the same as the other prisons that have been in the state of Pennsylvania for decades.”
Parnall and other former prison staff members have also brought lawsuits against Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, who has been accused of negligence and corruption, and Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement official, Assistant Secretary of State Michael D. Kowalski.
Kowalsky has not commented on the allegations of sexual misconduct.
Pennsylvania has also seen an increase in sexual assaults in its prisons.
According to the state Department of Public Safety, sexual assaults involving female inmates have jumped by about 60 percent since the state instituted a statewide mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for non-violent offenses.