Former inmate alleges rape at private prison
By Stephenie Steitzer February 25, 2010
Louisville Courier Journal
A former inmate at the beleaguered private women’s prison in Eastern Kentucky has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was repeatedly raped by a prison employee in 2007.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, alleges that the employee at the Otter Creek Correctional Center forced her to engage in non-consensual sexual acts between March and October 2007 and threatened to block her parole if she reported him to authorities.
The alleged victim also names Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the prison under contract with the state, and the Department of Corrections as defendants. It alleges that they failed to properly screen, train and supervise the employee.
CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in an e-mail Thursday that the employee was terminated last March.
Owen said CCA has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday, and could not comment further at this time.
Department of Corrections Commission LaDonna Thompson said Thursday that she had not yet seen the suit and could not comment.
It could not be determined whether the employee is facing criminal charges relating to the allegations.
A Kentucky State Police spokesman familiar with cases against former Otter Creek workers could not be reached for comment Thursday.
At least six workers at Otter Creek have been charged with sex-related crimes involving inmates at the facility.
Gov. Steve Beshear announced last month that the state will move more than 400 women prisoners out of Otter Creek given the allegations of sexual misconduct by male workers there.
The women prisoners will be transferred to the state-run Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia this summer, and the nearly 700 male inmates now there will be moved to Otter Creek, which has more than 650 beds, and other prisons in the state.
CCA has been under fire since last summer after multiple inmates at Otter Creek made allegations that they were sexually assaulted by corrections officers and other workers there.
A Department of Corrections investigation found that prison authorities failed to investigate seven alleged incidents of sexual contact between workers and inmates since 2007. In four of those cases, the workers involved were fired.
But investigations required under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act were not conducted.
The suit filed this week states that the alleged victim originally denied that she had been raped because “she was so afraid of (the employee’s) threats regarding her parole.”
It says she told investigators last July that the incidents had occurred.
The suit says that the alleged victim was released on parole in September 2008 under the condition that she remain free of any parole violations for six years.
She seeks damages, including punitive damages, in an amount to be determined by a jury, according to the lawsuit.
Her attorney, William Butler Jr. of Louisville, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.