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Pennsylvania authorities charge seven prison guards with sexual assault of female inmates

February 17, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Pennsylvania authorities charge seven prison guards with sexual assault of female inmates (OFFICE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL)

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Seven current and former corrections officers in Pennsylvania were arrested Wednesday for crimes related to sexual assault after using their influence “to manipulate and dominate female inmates.”

The officers at Lackawanna County Prison perpetuated a “persistent culture of sexual assault” for many years, according to the office of state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

“These women had nowhere to turn, and they considered this horrendous behavior to be the ‘status quo,'” Shapiro stated during a news conference.

The officers promised prisoners items such as food, cigarettes and extra time on the phone in exchange for sexual favors, the Times-Tribune reported.

Seven current and former prison guards at Lackawanna County Prison were arrested Wednesday. (OFFICE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL)

A prison guard reportedly forced a female inmate to perform a sex act on him in her cell until the lock on her door “clicked.” The sound on the lock was a sign that someone was coming. The grand jury reviewing the charges learned that guards in a control room could remotely “click” the cell locks.

John Shnipes, Jeffrey Staff, George Efthimiou, Mark Johnson, George McHale, Paul Voglino and James Walsh were all arrested and were hit with various charges that include institutional assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, along with harassment.

Shapiro said the charges stemmed from a year-long probe into the Scranton facility.

“In the instances that these allegations were reported to personnel at the Lackawanna County Prison, there is no evidence that any action was taken to help the inmates who were being assaulted by correctional officers,” Shapiro added. “This is outrageous conduct by those in positions of power.”

An attorney representing Staff, Voglino and Johnson told the Times-Tribune that the charges are “trumped up” and are “not credible.”

“I don’t believe the charges will move forward,” Bernie Brown said.

Brown added that possible settlements of their lawsuits motivated the accusers.

Walsh’s attorney maintained that his client has no criminal history and will not be pleading guilty.

“We’re going to take a long look at those and mount an appropriate defense to make sure that the right thing takes place,” Chris Caputo, a former prosecutor, said. “I’ve known him as (an assistant) district attorney, as an individual who had to work in law enforcement over at the jail… and I would describe him as a family man and an upstanding person in the community.”

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