In 2005, Oregon became the 49th state to enact a custodial sexual abuse law, following a high-profile 2004 sex scandal at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF).
Before the law was enacted, Oregon guards who sexually abused prisoners got off lightly. For example, in the 2004 CCCF case, prisoner Amanda Durbin accused Lt. Jeffrey Barcenas and food services coordinator Christopher Randall of sexually assaulting her. [See: PLN, April 2004, p.42]. Both resigned and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges; Barcenas was sentenced to six months in jail, while Randall served just 45 days.
Under Oregon’s current custodial sexual misconduct law, an Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) employee or contractor commits a felony by engaging in sexual intercourse with a prisoner. Any other sexual contact is custodial sexual misconduct in the second degree, a misdemeanor. Prisoners are not subject to prosecution and consent is not a defense due to the power differential between prisoners and prison employees.
Following the law’s enactment, CCCF physical plant grounds crew supervisor Paul W. Golden, plumber Richard Kaleo Rick, maintenance worker Troy Bryant Austin, and guards Darcy Aaron Macknight and Richard Mitchell were prosecuted for sexually abusing prisoners.
In June 2009, Golden pleaded guilty to 15 counts of sexual custodial misconduct and one count of supplying contraband. He then rolled the dice by going to a bench trial on other charges, where Judge Rick Knapp found him guilty of 14 additional counts of sexual abuse. “He’s a serial sex offender. There’s no question about it,” Judge Knapp declared when he sentenced Golden to 11½ years. The other CCCF employees were convicted and received sentences ranging from probation to three years in prison. [See: PLN, Nov. 2010, p.18].
The sexual abuse of female prisoners at CCCF occurred “in cleaning closets, utility tunnels, toolsheds, woodlands and under a firetruck,” according to an article in The Oregonian.
Apparently, the administration and staff at the prison didn’t learn from previous incidents of sexual misconduct.
According to the Statesman Journal, between 2009 and 2012, 37 incidents of sexual abuse were reported by female prisoners at CCCF while male prisoners reported 34 incidents. Although CCCF primarily holds women, it has a small classification unit for male prisoners. The vast majority of the claims were deemed “unsubstantiated” or “unfounded” by prison officials.
Verified incidents of sexual abuse often resulted in litigation, and as of March 2012 the state had paid $1.2 million to 17 current and former prisoners in lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by CCCF employees.
Nor have such incidents stopped since then.
On March 21, 2012, CCCF maintenance employee Jeremy J. Veelle, 35, was arrested on charges related to sexual misconduct with a prisoner, including second-degree custodial sexual misconduct and first-degree official misconduct.
Another CCCF maintenance worker, Schawn Jacob Riley, 38, was jailed in April 2012 and charged with custodial sexual misconduct following a four-month investigation. He pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree custodial sexual misconduct and was sentenced in September 2012 to 30 days in jail and two years’ probation.
Riley’s victim filed a lawsuit alleging the ODOC had failed to protect her from the sexual abuse, which included oral sex, kissing and groping. The unnamed prisoner also alleged in the suit that she had been sexually abused by another prison employee, identified only as “Mr. Jacques.”
The lawsuit was filed by Salem attorney Brian Lathen, who has represented a number of other prisoners in sexual abuse complaints. “When I heard these new incidents were fairly recent, I was really surprised, because [prison officials] were swearing up and down that they had made changes so it wouldn’t happen again,” he stated.
“We put as many checks and balances in place as we can,” said ODOC Director Colette S. Peters, who was appointed in February 2012. “Unfortunately, there were still areas these activities occurred and boundaries that were still crossed.”
Apparently the checks and balances weren’t enough. On September 21, 2012, former CCCF food services coordinator Benjamin Carl Patterson, 55, was arraigned on charges of first-degree official misconduct, custodial sexual misconduct and supplying contraband, and booked into the Washington County Jail. He is accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with a female prisoner.
And on October 22, 2012, an unidentified CCCF prisoner filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the state, accusing kitchen supervisor Brian Molsberry of sexually assaulting her. The victim alleged that Molsberry made sexual remarks and touched her breasts, buttocks and vagina; the incidents occurred in an area of the kitchen not covered by functional security cameras. According to the ODOC, Molsberry resigned in August 2012. It is unknown whether he was criminally charged; the Oregon State Police reportedly investigated the abuse allegations, then closed the investigation.
“It really now is an epidemic,” said Lathen. “The whole culture there at the facility is one that needs to be changed.”
Sources: Statesman Journal, The Oregonian, Associated Press
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