PHOENIX (AP) — A teacher at an Arizona prison was alone in a room full of sex offenders before being stabbed and sexually assaulted by a convicted rapist, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press about an attack that highlighted major security lapses at the facility.
The attack occurred Jan. 30 at the Eyman prison's Meadows Unit, which houses about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders. The teacher was administering a high school equivalency test to about a half-dozen inmates in a classroom with no guard nearby and only a radio to summon help. The Department of Corrections issued only a bare-bones press release after the attack, but the AP pieced together what happened based on interviews and investigatory reports obtained under the Arizona Public Records Act.
After the last of the other inmates left, Jacob Harvey asked the teacher if she could open the bathroom and then attacked her, records show. Harvey is accused of stabbing her in the head with a pen, forcing her to the ground and raping her.
The teacher told investigators that she screamed for help, but none came. Afterward, Harvey tried to use her radio to call for help. It had apparently been changed to a channel the unit's guards didn't use, so Harvey let the woman use a phone, according to the reports.
Carl ToersBijns, a former deputy warden at the prison, said the assault highlights chronic understaffing and lax security policies that put staff members at risk.
"Here you've got a guy that commits a hell of a crime ... and he's put into an environment that actually gives him an opportunity to do his criminality because of a lack of staffing," said ToersBijns, who was deputy warden at the Eyman prison in Florence until retiring in 2010 and oversaw the Meadows Unit for 19 months.
State prison officials, however, dismiss the concerns. They say the assault at the prison about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix is a risk that comes with the job of overseeing violent prison inmates.
Harvey was in the first year of a 30-year sentence for raping a Glendale woman in November 2011. Just 17 at the time, he had knocked on the woman's door in the middle of the day, asked for a drink of water, then forced his way inside, where he repeatedly raped and beat her while her 2-year-old child was in the apartment. He fled naked when the woman's roommate arrived home.
He was arrested after DNA evidence connected him to the crime, and he pleaded guilty.
Harvey was initially classified as a "Class 4" security risk, one notch lower than the highest level. Six months later, despite violating prison rules at least once, he was reclassified at a lower level.
Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Nick said classrooms at prisons across the state are having cameras installed. But he said no administrative investigation was launched because there was no need, and no one was disciplined. He said all prisons are dangerous places and staff are trained accordingly.
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