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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Teacher Raped & Stabbed in Arizona Prison

FLORENCE, Ariz. (CN) - A teacher was stabbed and raped inside an Arizona prison because of the state's inadequate staffing and poor mental health services, the woman claims in court.

The woman, whose name is blacked out throughout the lawsuit, was working as a high school-equivalency teacher at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in late January when 20-year-old Jacob Harvey stabbed her repeatedly with a pen, ripped off her clothes and raped her, according to her complaint in Pinal County Superior Court.

She says Harvey, who was serving 30 years for raping and beating a woman in front of her child, hung around after taking a test and took advantage of the absence of prison guards to attack her savagely.

On the morning of the attack, the camera-monitored visitor room in which the she usually taught her classes was being used for an awards ceremony, so officials sent her to "a remote location that is not monitored by corrections staff and thus lacks any officer presence whatsoever," the complaint states.

Officers in charge that day gave her a radio in case her students "acted up," but otherwise left her alone in the classroom with several prisoners, she says.

After waiting for the other inmates to leave the classroom, Harvey asked to use the bathroom. As the plaintiff stood up from her desk to leave the room and unlock the bathroom door, Harvey attacked, she says.

"Without warning ... Harvey grabbed [her] from behind and pushed her with both hands to the ground," the complaint states. "Immediately, [the plaintiff] began to scream for help and struggle to get away, but no corrections officer came to her aid and she could not escape.

"Harvey then ordered her to 'shut up,' but [she] continued to scream and struggle. Harvey then became increasingly aggravated and in an effort to silence her, stabbed [her] multiple times in the head and hands with a pen."

The teacher says that Harvey "completed the attack by tearing off [her] clothes and violently raping her."

After the attack, Harvey told the plaintiff, "We need to get you some help," and tried to call guards himself but found the radio was on the wrong channel, the teacher says.

"As time passed and nobody came to check on [the plaintiff]. Harvey began to get agitated once again and he threw the radio against the wall breaking it into pieces," the lawsuit states. "Fearing a second attack or worse, [she] pleaded with Harvey to allow her to use the classroom phone to call for assistance. Finally, Harvey relented." The Arizona Department of Corrections announced an investigation after the attack, but would not say Thursday if it was complete. The department refused to comment on the allegations.

The teacher claims that negligent staffing created an opportunity for Harvey, and that an ongoing problem with mental health care in the state's prisons contributed to the incident. The lawsuit names the ADC's private health care provider, Corizon Health, as a defendant.

"Corizon's failure to provide Harvey with desperately needed mental health care is part of a troubling pattern and practice of neglecting and ignoring the mental health needs of inmates in the custody and control of the ADC that is currently at issue in the matter titled Parsons v. Ryan," the lawsuit states.

In Parsons v. Ryan, a class of Arizona prisoners is pursuing similar claims against the state. That case is set to go to trial in Phoenix soon.

Amnesty International too has denounced the "cruel" conditions in Arizona prisons.

Corizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

The teacher sued Arizona, ADC officials, Harvey and Corizon, alleging civil rights violations, assault and battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

She is represented by Scott Zwillinger with Goldman & Zwillinger in Scottsdale.

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