A female teacher was raped in an Eyman Prison in Florence, Arizona on January 30 2014. She was administering a pre-GED exam to seven convicted sex-offenders and mentally handicapped prisoners. The convicts arrived unescorted, and the classroom was in a remote location without security cameras or in the view of security guards. After the test, all inmates left with the exception of 21 year old Jacob Harvey. Harvey was convicted of a day-time home invasion where he brutally raped and beat a woman while her toddler watched. He was sentenced to 30 years in March 2013.
How can an unarmed woman who is not trained in self-defense protect herself when in a classroom of convicted sex offenders? Should the state be held liable for her injuries? After all, she is an employee, isn’t it their job to protect her? According to Laurie Roberts of The Arizona Republic, the attorney general’s reasoning was essentially “The woman knew she was in a prison, so what did she expect?”
The only communication device she was given was a radio to reach prison guards if an incident occurred. When the inmate attacked the teacher, she tried using the radio, but it was tuned to a channel the guards didn’t even use. She also tried screaming, as Harvey threw her to the ground and stabbed her with pencils, choking her and slamming her head into the floor all at the same time. No guard came to help. The teacher has accused the state of negligence, false imprisonment, and violation of her civil rights.
The state of Arizona has requested that the teacher’s negligence lawsuit be thrown out. But, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton stated that the suit “contains sufficient allegations” and is letting the civil suit go forward. She stated the teacher “faced an unusually serious risk of harm” and the defendants “acted with deliberate indifference in failing to take steps to address that danger”.
The Attorney General’s Office stated the teacher “has attempted to recast absolutely routine prison events”. So an employee being raped by a prisoner is a routine prison event?
Scott Zwillinger, the teacher’s attorney, believes this is a classic case of victim-blaming. On top of physical injuries, he stated “the emotional part of this has tore my client’s life up” and it’s like we’re back in 1952 because “Absolutely, it’s blaming the victim”.
Who is at fault, is yet to be decided. The pretrial conference is set for February 23rd. To me, if an employee is subjected to physical harm with a clear lack of protection that is expected from a prison, the state is at fault and should pay the highest amount of restitution. Victim blaming is not the answer.