A former inmate of a Louisiana private prison is suing the company that runs the prison after two guards forced him to perform oral sex.
Aaron Franklin, 27, says that he was abused by Derrick Deshotel and Tyler Strothers, two correctional officers at the Allen Correctional Center, a private prison in rural Kinder, LA, run by the GEO Group. An investigation by the prison substantiated his allegations, the state Department of Corrections said.
The abuse started in December 2014, when Deshotel caught Franklin with cigarettes, which prisoners are prohibited from having. Deshotel told Franklin he would write him up and make him spend more time in prison if he didn’t give him a blowjob, according to a lawsuit Franklin filed last month.
“It was like, as I was doing it, I was dizzy,” Franklin told me in a phone interview this week. “I knew if I don’t do this, I might not see my family again” for a long time.
After the first incident, Franklin tried to forget it. But the next year, on July 19, 2015, Deshotel ordered Franklin into the prison’s hobby shop and told him he wanted sex again. When Franklin refused, Deshotel handcuffed him, pushed him into a wall, and forced him to his knees. He then violently thrust into Franklin’s mouth, Franklin said.
This time, Franklin held the officer’s semen in his mouth and spat it in a glove and on his shirt, preserving it for an investigation. But he said he was scared that if he reported what had happened, the officers would abuse him even more violently.
On September 17, 2015, officer Strothers approached Franklin and told him that he had heard he had “good mouth action.” He took him to the hobby shop again and said that if he didn’t give him oral sex, he would plant drugs on him, which would keep Franklin in prison for a longer sentence.
Franklin decided he had to report the abuse. After he did, he was briefly kept in solitary confinement before being transferred to a state prison, and was released last month. In all, Franklin served eight years for two armed robbery convictions.
The guards were fired by GEO and criminally charged with malfeasance in office. They pled guilty and received only probation, Franklin’s lawyer said. (Local court officials said court records could not be immediately released.) The Allen Parish Prosecutor’s office, which handled the case against the two officers, did not respond to a request for comment.
Ken Pastorick, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Corrections, confirmed that an investigation by the prison had substantiated Franklin’s allegations, and that the officers were referred to law enforcement for prosecution. The GEO Group said that the officers no longer worked at the prison, but declined to release any records about their investigation of the abuse.
Franklin's lawsuit, which asks for $4 million in damages, accuses the officers of violating his rights and GEO of letting it happen. “My judge sentenced me to do time, but he didn’t sentence me to this,” Franklin said. “Being abused and mistreated, that wasn’t part of my sentence.”
Lawyers for the two officers did not respond to requests for comment. In their motions in the case, however, they appear to imply—in an argument couched in legalese—that Franklin was asking for, or wanted to, have sex with them.
“While at all times denying all allegations of the plaintiff’s complaint, if the plaintiff does prove the occurrence of any sexual conduct, the plaintiff caused the conduct to occur by being a sexual aggressor and initiating the conduct,” Deshotel’s lawyer writes in his response to Franklin’s complaint. “Any sexual activity the plaintiff alleges as a result of his sexual advances are due to his own intentional conduct and fault and did not cause him any damages.”
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 80,000 inmates are sexually abused in prison every year, and says that about half of sexual abuse complaints filed by inmates are against corrections staff.
Franklin's lawsuit comes as the country is in the middle of a debate over private prisons. The Department of Justice announced in August that it would phase out its use of private prisons. But that decision doesn't affect private facilities that have contracts with state corrections department, such as Allen Correctional Center.
“I don’t feel justice has been done,” Franklin told me. “I was hoping that [the officers] didn’t cop out, that they went to trial. I wanted to face them, I wanted to look them in the face and ask them, ‘How could you get the heart to do that?’”
Franklin, who now lives in Baton Rouge, said the abuse still affects him every day. He said he lives in fear of being forced again, and is especially scared when he sees police officers. If an officer comes near him, he said, he avoids speaking to them or even looking at them.
“You can’t get over it, that’s the biggest lie,” he said. “When you get by yourself, it really hurts you.”
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.