In 2012, the federal government created the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Pursuant to section 115.276 (Disciplinary Sanctions for Staff) of the PREA Community Confinement Standards, “Staff shall be subject to disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination for violating agency sexual abuse or sexual harassment policies. Termination shall be the presumptive disciplinary sanction for staff who have engaged in sexual abuse.” Despite the law, members of the Hilltop Community Corrections Board, under the direction of Jeffrey Wilson, have turned a blind eye to repeated victimization of women by Hilltop Director John Schmier. This is unconscionable, and it is my sincere hope that Schmier and the board members are held criminally accountable.
While the article (“Halfway house director has history of sexual harassment complaints,” Herald, Aug. 3) focused largely on the experience of Schmier’s co-workers, I shudder to think what the offenders under his watch were subjected to.
In spite of PREA, sexual abuse of women in prison and community corrections is not the exception; it is the standard. The vast majority of victimized offenders will not report these crimes because of humiliation, shame and the fear of retaliation by their captors until they have concluded their legal obligation to the state. Tragically, in many cases, by the time they are ready to report, the statute of limitations for reporting makes their claims invalid.
I implore this community to take a stand and not allow this director or board to continue victimizing women. The fact that this is happening in our community is deplorable, and it’s time to take action.