A former prison staffer who filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona after being raped by an inmate likely never expected to be told that she should have seen it coming.
But that’s the tone of a new statement filed in court by the state’s attorney general, reading in part that the staffer — a teacher with the Arizona Department of Corrections — should have known that being around sex offenders put her at a higher risk of being assaulted.
In his motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Arizona Attorney General Jonathan Weisbard said that the employee “routinely worked at the prison complex” and should have known that the “risk of harm, including assault, always existed” at the prison.
The allegations stem from an incident in January 2014 while the woman, whom TheBlot Magazine is not identifying because of her claim, was teaching at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman. According to her lawsuit, she normally teaches prison inmates inside a special classroom monitored through security cameras by correctional officers. But due to a special event taking place at the prison, prison staffers arranged for the teacher to give a test to several sex offenders inside an unmonitored room.
According to her lawsuit, prison staffers gave the teacher a radio and told her to call for a correctional officer if a problem occurred. She gave a 90-minute test to seven inmates — all of whom were registered sex offenders. At the end of the test, six inmates returned to their dorms unescorted. One inmate, identified in the lawsuit as 20-year-old Jacob Harvey, stayed in the room with the woman.
The lawsuit claims Harvey wrestled the teacher to the ground, stabbed her several times with a pen, ripped off her clothes and raped her. The teacher sued, saying prison staffers were culpable in the rape because they left her alone in a room full of inmates with no protection.
“As a result of the brutal rape and assault, [she] suffered physical injuries, great fear for her life and well-being and severe and traumatic emotional distress with which she continues to struggle to this day,” the lawsuit said.
In his motion to dismiss,Weisbard said the civilian employee should have been well aware of the risk when she accepted the teaching role at the prison.
“Plaintiff wants to create an artificial impression that the [corrections] officers knew she was in danger but she did not know,” the attorney general wrote in the motion. “It makes no sense. Of course, if Plaintiff did appreciate the danger of her situation, as an employee, she could have done something about it.”
The woman at the center of the lawsuit doesn’t see it that way. In an interview with The Associated Press last year, she blamed Corrections Director Charles Ryan for creating a situation that put her in danger.
“Safety’s got to come before everything, and there’s just this attitude that we have the number of staff we need because we say we do,” she said.
A judge is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss within the next few weeks.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.