Troy, Virginia – (AP) For more than a year, Virginia’s largest women’s prison rounded up inmates who had loose-fitting clothes, short hair, or otherwise masculine looks, sending them to a unit officers derisively dubbed the “butch wing,” prisoners and guards say.
Dozens were moved in an attempt to split up relationships and curb illegal sexual activity at the 1,200-inmate Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, though some straight women were sent to the wing strictly because of their appearance, the inmates and corrections officers said
Civil rights advocates called the moves unconstitutional punishment for “looking gay.” The warden denied that any housing decisions were made based on looks or sexual orientation, and said doing so would be discriminatory. The practice was stopped recently after the Associated Press began questioning it, according to several inmates and one current employee.
Two current guards and one of their former co-workers said targeting masculine-looking inmates was a deliberate strategy by a building manager. Numerous inmates said in letters and interviews that they felt humliated and stigmatized when guards took them to the seperate wing – also referred to by prisoners and guards as the “little boys wing,” “locker room wing” or “studs wing.”
“I deserved to go for my crime and I did my time there,” said Summer Triolo, who spent nearly six years at Fluvanna for theft before being released in February 2008. “But my punishment was by the judge to do time in prison away from my family and home. That was my punishment, not all the extra stuff.”
Living conditions in wing 5D weren’t worse than the rest of the priuson, and no prisoner said she was denied services other inmates recieved. However, the women said they were verbally harassed by staff who would make remarks such as, “Here come the little boys,” when they were escorted to eat, and they were taken to the cafeteria first or last to keep them away from other inmates. The three guards confirmed such remarks were made.
The two current guards and former guard William Drumheller said Building 5 manager Timothy Back, who is in charge of security and operations for that area, came up with the idea to break up couples by sending inmates to the wing. Gradually, they said, the 60-inmate wing was filled with women targeted because of their appearance. The current employees asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs.
“I heard him say, ‘We’re going to break up some of those relationships, start a boys wing, and we’re going to take all these studs and put them together and see how they like looking at nothing but each other all day instead of their girlfriends,'” Drumheller said.