ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A woman who was serving a 13-year forgery sentence at the Grants Women’s Correctional Facility in 2007 told a jury Monday that she was initially flattered by the flirtations of a male nurse when she went to the medical unit to strip and wax the floors.
But the first blush of feeling flattered soon turned to disgust, Lisa Jaramillo testified before U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera. Jaramillo was the first witness in the trial over the alleged sexual assault of her and another woman at the prison run by Corrections Corporation of America under a state contract. CCA, the nation’s largest private, for-profit prison operator, provided the facility with security, and a separate, unrelated company, Correctional Medical Services, staffed the medical unit.
Only Jaramillo and Kim Chavez remain as plaintiffs among the four women who filed the lawsuit in 2009, because settlements were reached with the two others. The claims include retaliation after reporting the assault, as well as the assault itself.
Jaramillo, who said she came from a “family of addicts” in Las Cruces, spoke softly and dabbed at her eyes as she described jerking away when the nurse, Roger Bustamante, forced her hand down his pants and then yanked down her pants and assaulted her after the rebuff.
Jaramillo had earned a certificate in cleaning while in prison and was alone in the medical unit without a corrections officer as a monitor, despite rules calling for an officer to be present. An assistant warden had asked Jaramillo to teach Chavez how to operate the buffing and waxing machinery, but both women had to leave the medical units and return to their cells after three hours when a bell sounded for a regular count of inmates.
Jaramillo came back to the medical unit before Chavez. As Jaramillo bolted from the room after the assault in tears, she said she saw a female nurse whom she avoided and then ran into Chavez and told her what had happened.
Attorney Mark Fine, who represents the women inmates, told jurors in his opening statement that the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, sets national standards to prevent rape in prisons.
By the end of trial, he said, it will become clear that under the act, it’s not OK for a prison official to have sex with an inmate.
Daniel Struck, the Phoenix attorney defending CCA, said the case was about “hustling.”
“Those are not my words,” he said, adding that they were a term Jaramillo used to refer to herself.
He portrayed Jaramillo as a troublemaker with over 25 disciplinary infractions and suggested she had embellished the incident in each telling.
Jaramillo acknowledged infractions when she was questioned by Fine and said she’d made many bad decisions in her life. But she said that when she referred to “hustling,” it meant trying to get more or better food or tobacco, and was not about selling her body.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal