Grieving Family Files Suit Against County and Private Jail After Wife and Mother is Raped, Commits Suicide
The Texas Civil Rights Project filed suit today on behalf of the family of Mrs. Letisha Tapia. Mrs. Tapia was found hanging in the Val Verde County Jail on July 23, 2004 after she had been raped by a male inmate.
The jail housed Mrs. Tapia in the same cell block as violent male inmates. Permissive guards allowed male and female inmates to have sexual relations. Mrs. Tapia told the warden about these sexual transgressions, but he ignored her pleas and male inmates remained in the cell block. Mrs. Tapia was raped by one of the male inmates after making her report to the warden.
Mrs. Tapia reported the rape to the authorities, who refused to press charges. She received no psychiatric treatment after the rape, despite experiencing depression and anxiety.
The night before she died, Mrs. Tapia was abused by a guard. Lt. Duggar interrogated Mrs. Tapia about a rules violation by forcing her to her knees and kicking her. He threatened her with rape, telling her �if you were my cellmate, I�d make you my bitch.� He called her a �low-life prostitute ho� and told her she would spend the next fifteen years in jail. He ordered three female officers to strip search Mrs. Tapia, and watched as they made her expose herself to him. Despite telling Lt. Duggar she would kill herself if placed in administrative segregation, Duggar threw Mrs. Tapia into a segregation cell and left her there, naked, without blankets for the entire night.
Jail policy requires that every inmate see a psychiatrist before being placed in administrative segregation, but Mrs. Tapia never saw a doctor. The jail guards failed to inspect her cell every fifteen minutes (as required by policy), and Mrs. Tapia was found hanging in her cell that night.
�The jail drove this young woman to kill herself,� said Scott Medlock, the Texas Civil Rights Project�s Prisoners� Rights Attorney. �From the minute she was booked into this facility, she was abused and ignored by jail officials.�
Medlock said the private prison system was to blame for Mrs. Tapia�s death. Val Verde County and the US Marshals Service contract with GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Security, to run the jail. �When prisons and jails are privatized the company�s bottom line is placed above inmate health and safety. GEO cuts corners by hiring poorly trained guards, providing inmates with cut rate medical care and running their facility in a grossly unprofessional manner. Mrs. Tapia�s family had their wife, mother and daughter sacrificed to corporate greed.�
Mrs. Tapia�s family is seeking monetary damages, but that is little consolation. �No amount of money could bring her back,� her husband, Eliodoro Tapia, said.
For more information, please contact Scott Medlock, at (512) 474-5073 ext. 105.