Guard at Kentucky facility fired in alleged assault of Isle inmate
By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
HILO, Hawai'i — A male corrections officer has been fired and a privately run Kentucky prison has changed some of its housing unit procedures after a Hawai'i female prison inmate accused the officer of sexually assaulting her in her cell last fall.
According to a written statement by the 34-year-old inmate that was provided by a family member, the inmate alleges the corrections officer came to her room in the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright, Ky., between 4:15 and 4:45 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2007, and demanded that she perform sex acts.
The inmate alleged she saved evidence from the encounter and turned it over to prison officials the same day.
In a letter to the family, Tommy Johnson, deputy director of the Hawai'i Department of Public Safety, said the Kentucky State Police investigated the incident and referred the case to prosecutors.
The corrections officer was "immediately terminated," and is scheduled to go on trial in Floyd County District Court on a misdemeanor sex offense, Johnson said in the Sept. 16, 2008, letter to the inmate's family.
The Advertiser does not identify victims of alleged sexual assaults, and is also withholding the name of the family member to protect the privacy of the inmate.
Johnson said in a written statement that prison operator Corrections Corporation of America immediately changed its operational procedures at Otter Creek to require that "whenever possible, a female correctional officer is paired with a male correctional officer in the housing dorms /units."
"In addition, the Department of Public Safety has reviewed the changes and approved them with further modifications that are specifically designed to ensure that at least two correctional officers (preferably females) are always posted in the housing dorms/units," Johnson wrote.
Allegations of sexual misconduct involving corrections workers and Hawai'i inmates have surfaced before in private prisons in Oklahoma in 2000 and Colorado in 2005, and were followed by a felony conviction of a corrections officer in Colorado and inmate lawsuits in both states.
Prison officials transferred some of the inmates who made sexual misconduct allegations against prison staff in the past back to Hawai'i, but that didn't happen in this case.
"Since the officer was the only staff person implicated by (the inmate) and given the fact that he was immediately removed from the facility, CCA quickly addressed her security and took corrective action," Johnson said in his written statement. "Her safety was not in question, nor was there a need to relocate (the inmate) to another facility. Further, (the inmate) did not request protective custody and therefore, the department determined that moving her was not warranted."
The inmate's aunt disagreed, and the female prisoner who allegedly was assaulted has been placed in lockdown for about 50 days since she reported the sexual assault. The aunt contends the lockdown punishment was retaliation against the inmate for reporting the alleged assault.