Prison Teacher Who Was Raped Wins Lawsuit Against Arizona

| by Nik Bonopartis
Jacob Harvey.Jacob Harvey.

An Arizona prison teacher won a civil lawsuit against the state after she was stabbed and raped by an inmate in 2014.

The 30-year-old teacher, who has not been named in media reports, was administering a GED exam to seven inmates at Eyman state prison's Meadows Unit on Jan. 30, 2014, when she was attacked. Six of the inmates had completed the test and left the room, leaving the last inmate -- 21-year-old convicted rapist Jacob Harvey -- alone in the room with the victim, the Daily Mail reported.

Harvey tackled the teacher, stabbed her in the head with a pen, choked her and slammed her head on the floor, according to details of the lawsuit reported by the Arizona Republic. The victim screamed for help, the lawsuit said, but no one came to her aid.

Correction officers at the prison had left the teacher alone in the unmonitored room for 90 minutes without checking in on her, and it wasn't until Harvey allowed the victim to radio for medical attention that prison authorities realized what had happened, the Arizona Republic reported.

The Industrial Commission of Arizona, which oversees workplace safety in the state, fined the Department of Corrections $14,000 for the incident, and the prison was ordered to increase correct officer patrols and install cameras in classrooms.

Harvey, who was already serving a 30-year sentence for raping a woman during a 2011 home invasion, pleaded guilty to the prison rape and had his sentence increased to life in prison.

But the criminal charges and state fine against the prison system were separate from the civil lawsuit filed by the victim. An initial claim filed by the victim's lawyer sought $4 million in damages for the physical and mental trauma, as well as negligence on the part of prison officials, the Daily Mail reported, but the terms of the eventual settlement weren't disclosed as of Dec. 29, when the newspaper reported the settlement.

Arizona's attorney general's office fought the lawsuit, but a federal judge did not buy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Weisbard's argument that the victim should have expected such an attack, the Arizona Republic reported.

"As a result of the brutal rape and assault, [the woman] suffered physical injuries, great fear for her life and well-being and severe and traumatic emotional distress with which she continues to struggle to this day," her attorney, Scott Zwillinger, wrote.

The lawsuit also blasted the state prison system for classifying Harvey as a low-risk offender, making him eligible for the GED classes, despite his conviction for a violent home invasion and rape.

A former deputy warden at the prison, Carl ToersBijns, told The Associated Press that an understaffed correction officer force and lax security policies were also factors that created the conditions for such an attack. Harvey was reclassified as a lower risk offender despite violating prison rules at least once just one year into his initial prison term.

“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,” ToersBijns, who oversaw the Meadows Unit for 19 months during his stint as an assistant warden, told AP.

Sources: Arizona Republic, AP via NY Daily News, Daily Mail (2) / Photo credit: Arizona Department of Corrections via CNN