State prisons on 'Geraldo'

Sep 8, 1999 at 12:00 am

An upcoming television program investigating sexual abuse of female prisoners in the United States will focus heavily on what goes on inside Michigan’s prisons.

The Engler administration’s refusal to allow Geraldo Rivera inside two state prisons didn’t stop the NBC newsman from focusing about 40 percent of the hourlong program on Michigan. The program, "Women in Prison: Nowhere to Hide," will address "the growing problems women face while serving time in America’s prisons and whether our government is doing enough to protect female inmates," NBC announced in a press release last week.

Executive producer Susan Farkas says the Michigan portion of the program draws on interviews with former Michigan inmates, lawyers and others, including Michigan Department of Corrections Director Bill Martin.

The department, which still faces litigation over allegations of abuse at its Scott and Crane women’s facilities, has barred everyone from local media to a United Nations investigator from the prisons.

Michigan wasn’t the only place where Rivera got the boot. Farkas says Rivera was also turned away from a prison in Florida, where he had planned to interview an inmate allegedly raped by a prison guard.

"Access has been tricky," she says. "Even the federal prisons are reluctant to let you in."

Although the Metro Times ran an investigative story on sexual abuse in Michigan’s women’s prisons earlier this year, Farkas says there seemed to be little other coverage of the issue in Michigan or in other states, despite several reports by international human rights organizations.

The program is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, on WDIV-TV, Channel 4 in Detroit.