Attorney General discusses Lackawanna County Prison investigation
DUNMORE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WOLF-TV) —
On Thursday, the Attorney General Josh Shapiro discussed the charges brought against seven correctional officers at the Lackawanna County Prison.
Shapiro called it a persistent culture of abuse that took place for nearly twenty years.
"In the most basic terms, these defendants used their power as guards to demand and coerce sex from inmates who had no power due to their incarcerated status,” Shapiro said.
Seven men, all current or former correctional officers at the Lackawanna County Prison, are facing felony criminal charges in relation to an ongoing corruption probe.
Shapiro says a grand jury began investigating reports of sexual assault of female inmates last year after his office received a conflict report from the Lackawanna County District Attorney's office.
The grand jury heard testimony from witnesses and then his office raided the prison last September.
"The guards had a tradition of having women inmates perform certain sexual acts in certain locations in the prison,” Shapiro added.
Attorney Matthew Clemente and co-founder of NEPA Prison Advocates.
"It is encouraging though to see that action is being taken and people are being held accountable and this is garnering some attention to the reforms that are needed in the Lackawanna County Prison,” Clemente said.
Clemente says what's happening here plays into a larger narrative.
"...the need for reform, the need for particularly more transparency and accountability. The jail encompasses a large segment, if not the biggest budget item for the county,” he added.
But there's one message Shapiro wants everyone in our area to know:
"This is not the final chapter in this horrible saga. It is not the final chapter.”
Shapiro stressed the investigation is ongoing, so it is still unclear whether or not any more employees here at the prison will face charges in the future.
The Lackawanna County Prison Board released a statement Thursday stating:
"The question has been asked is the Lackawanna County Prison safe. The Prison is safe. Many of the allegations have occurred many, many years ago. The Prison Board together with the Lackawanna County Commissioners have worked diligently over the years to insure the safety of the prisoners. That is our job, that is our responsibility and we take them both seriously."
The Attorney General has also set up a number for anyone who may have information about these allegations of abuse at the prison.
If you believe you are a victim, a witness, or know someone who is, Shapiro asks for you to call.
That number to call is 570-846-4074.