In January 2014, an Arizona teacher who was left alone in a prison classroom with a group of convicted sex offenders was brutally raped by one of them. Last July, the teacher filed a $4 million lawsuit over the attack. Now, the Arizona attorney general’s office is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit, basically on the grounds that the teacher should have known better.
According to the New York Daily News, the teacher was giving a high school equivalency exam to a group of inmates. There was no guard in the classroom, or anywhere nearby. After the other inmates left, Jacob Harvey, a convicted rapist who was in his first year of a 30 year sentence, asked the teacher to unlock the bathroom for him. Harvey then stabbed the woman in the head with a pen, and raped her. Afterward, Harvey tried to call for help using a radio that the teacher had been given, but that radio was apparently tuned to a channel that the guards didn’t use. Finally, Harvey allowed her to use the phone to call guards.
The attack occurred at Eyman Prison’s Meadows Unit, which houses sex offenders. The teacher’s lawsuit claims that the unit was understaffed, and that the prison failed to monitor violent sex offenders when they were with non-guard staff. The suit also says that those staff members were not provided with equipment that would allow them to defend themselves, or call for help in an emergency.
Sadly, this type of story is not unique to Arizona, or even to the United States. A recent story out of Canada reports that a woman is suing Canadian police for leaving her alone, in handcuffs, with a convicted sex offender who was not cuffed.
The Arizona attorney general’s office engages in “blame the victim.”
This past Monday, the Arizona attorney general’s office asked for the teacher’s lawsuit to be dismissed. Their apparent reason is that the teacher was in a prison, therefore she should have expected it to be dangerous.
Arizona Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Weisbard’s motion to dismiss says, in part:
Plaintiff is an ADOC (Arizona Department of Corrections) employee who routinely worked at the prison complex. By being placed in a classroom at the complex, the officers were not placing Plaintiff in any type of situation that she would not normally face. The risk of harm, including assault, always existed at a prison like Eyman.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton asked Weisbard some pointed questions on Monday. Bolton wanted to know how the AG’s office could argue that the teacher was not placed in a dangerous situation by being left alone with a group of sex offenders. Bolton also questioned how the teacher could have been expected to provide for her own safety under the circumstances.
According to AZ Central, GED exams, such as the one the teacher was administering, usually are given in the prison’s visitation room, which is monitored by cameras. However, on the day in question, that room was being used for a special event. The teacher was sent to the classroom, given a radio, and told to call if there was any trouble. During the 90 minutes of testing, not a single guard came by to check that everything was okay, according to the lawsuit.
The teacher was left in an unsupervised situation with several convicted sex offenders. She was then raped by one of them, who had recently been convicted of raping a woman in broad daylight, in front of her two year old child. In addition, that inmate appears to have been classified as less of a security risk than he actually is. And what does Deputy AG Weisbard say?
Plaintiff wants to create an artificial impression that the ADOC officers knew she was in danger but she did not know. 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.
It’s amazing he didn’t say that she “invited it.”
Image of Jacob Harvey via AZCentral/Arizona Department of Corrections