Pennsylvania Wardens Let Guards Rape Women in Cells for Years, Lawsuit Claims

This is the third lawsuit and the fourth plaintiff in Lackawanna County’s prison sexual-assault scandal, involving at least 16 female victims and 10 alleged perpetrators.

A former inmate has filed suit against Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna County over its prison facility’s “unending sexual harassment and sexual assault of female inmates,” claiming the “highest-ranking officials” were aware of the scope of the abuse.

This is the third federal lawsuit and the fourth plaintiff in the county’s prison sexual-assault scandal, which has involved more than 16 victims and at least 10 alleged perpetrators who worked as corrections officers and prison employees.

Seven current and former guards were charged Feb. 14 following a grand jury investigation into reports of sexual assaults at the prison. The indictment claimed the culture of fear and abuse of power—for the guards’ sexual gratification—was going on for more than a decade.

Administrators, corrections staff, and the prison board “utterly ignored their responsibility to prevent the systematic” assaults by engaging in a culture of “silence, cover-up, and retaliation,” according to the new complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, said in February that the guards forced inmates into sexual acts in cells and utility closets, The New York Times reported. Shapiro’s office had been conducting an investigation into the abuse for the better part of a year, which culminated in the statewide grand jury.

“This was not one rogue prison guard,” Shapiro said at a news conference earlier this year. “They took advantage of them for their own sick gratification. Then they threatened to make these inmates’ lives worse if they told anyone about the abuse.”

The county paid out $750,000 in April 2016 to settle the first lawsuit. The second one, filed in July 2016, remains pending for two more women plaintiffs, The Citizens’ Voice reports.

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