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$60,000 Settlement for Female Pennsylvania Prisoner in Sexual Assault Suit

by David M. Reutter

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit claiming a female prisoner at Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna County Prison (LCP) was “repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted by numerous corrections officers over the course of a decade.” The suit alleged a “culture acquiescing to the sexual harassment and sexual abuse” of female prisoners at the facility.

The case was brought by Shannon Marie Parchinski, who said as far back as 2002, LCP had received reports of female prisoners being sexually harassed, assaulted and raped. Her complaint accused LCP administrators of being aware that guards Joseph Shnipes, Joseph Black and Lt. Verne Dittfield had engaged in sexual abuse and misconduct. Black worked at LCP until 2011; he was subsequently convicted of sexually assaulting five female prisoners, and received four to eight years in prison. [See: PLN, Dec. 2018, p.26].

Prisoners who were sexually abused by Dittfield were known by other prison staff members as “Daddy Dittfield’s Girls.” Parchinski’s lawsuit listed two dozen female prisoners who had been sexually assaulted by 10 different guards.

Parchinski alleged she was sexually harassed by Shnipes and forced to manually stimulate Black. She also had sexual intercourse with guard Jeff Staff once while she was on work release and again on post-release supervision. Staff, 43, was sentenced to nine months of probation in February 2019 after he pleaded no contest to official oppression. 

The following month another LCP guard, George Efthimiou, 51, entered a no contest plea for having sex with a prisoner on house arrest and threatening to have her house arrest revoked if she didn’t continue to have sex. He received two years of probation.

A $60,000 settlement in Parchinski’s case was reached on May 9, 2018; she was represented by Scranton attorney Matthew Comerford. See: Parchinski v. Lackawanna County Prison, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Penn.), Case No. 3:18-cv-00700-RDM-RM.

Sexual abuse charges remain pending against several other LCP guards. [See: PLN, April 2019, p.57; July 2018, p.34]. Most recently, following a grand jury investigation, former LCP counselor Samantha Heinrich was charged with two counts of felony institutional sexual assault in April 2019, for having sex with male prisoners. After her arrest she was released without posting bail. 

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Additional sources: wnep.com, triblive.com

Related legal case

Parchinski v. Lackawanna County Prison