PHOENIX — A teacher who was left alone in a classroom and then raped, reportedly by a convicted sex offender, filed a $4 million claim Thursday against the state Department of Corrections.
The claim comes nearly six months after the attack at the Eyman prison and a week after the state’s worker-safety agency launched a full review of the state prison system’s worker-safety practices.
The teacher was alone in a classroom with no guard nearby on Jan. 30 when a convicted rapist reportedly assaulted her. Details of the case were first reported by The Associated Press after an open-records request.
The claim says the department “failed miserably” in its duty to keep the teacher and other employees safe.
The claim, filed with the state by the teacher’s attorney, Scott Zwillinger of Scottsdale, said the Corrections Department understaffed the prison’s Meadows Unit for sex offenders, failed to monitor violent sex offenders when they were with non-guard staff like the teacher and failed to provide equipment to civilian staff that would allow them to defend themselves and quickly call for help in an emergency.
The attack raised questions about prison security because the teacher was put in a room full of sex offenders with no prison-guard supervision nearby. Authorities said the inmate, Jacob Harvey, lingered in the room after other inmates had left, stabbed the teacher with a pen and raped her.
“As a result (the teacher) has struggled not only with physical pain from the stabbing and rape but traumatic emotional distress that she struggles with each and every day,” and will for the rest of her life Zwillinger wrote. He said she can expect to win in excess of $10 million should the case go to trial.
The Associated Press does not normally identify victims of sex crimes.
The Meadows Unit houses about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders. The prison is in Florence, about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix.
A former deputy warden at the prison, Carl ToersBijns, has said the assault highlights chronic understaffing and lax security policies that put staff members at risk.
Prisons officials have said there were no security lapses that led to the rape, but they have since begun installing cameras in all prison classrooms, increased checks on non-guards and begun issuing them pepper spray.
Harvey, 20, has been indicted on charges of sexual assault, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last month .
Zwillinger is alleging civil rights violations by the prison system because they are failing to protect employees.