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Another Settlement in Sexual Assault Case at Pennsylvania Lackawanna County Prison

Pennsylvania's Lackawanna County paid $1.1 million to settle yet another lawsuit alleging several Lackawanna County Prison (LCP) guards sexually assaulted female prisoners. That brings the total for lawsuits the county has agreed to settle over the last three years to $2.4 million, most of which was paid by its insurance company.

PLN has reported on the sexual assault scandal and the previous settlements. In those cases, two settlements of $750,000 and $500,000 were reached in 2016. They alleged that guard Joseph Black sexually assaulted two women while held at LCP. He pleaded guilty in 2015 to indecent exposure and other offenses and was sentenced to 45 months to eight years in state prison. A $60,000 settlement was reached in June 2018 related to former guard Jeffrey T. Staff sexually assaulting a prisoner. [See PLN, December 2018, p. 26.]

The latest settlement was reached in early June 2019 is a global deal covering two lawsuits based on the claims of three women, who were represented by attorney Matthew Comerford. The complaint filed by Fox and Thompkins also includes the unsettled claims of former LCP prisoners Allison Demy and Joanne Perri.

That complaint details an open culture of sexual assault and groping by guards upon prisoners. It alleges the misconduct occurred from 1998 to 2015. The allegations include claims that the prisoners were given extra privileges such as food, cigarettes, and candy in exchange for exposing themselves or providing sexual favors to guards. In some instances, the prisoners were threatened with the loss of recreation or shower privileges if they refused the sexual overtures.

Some prisoners on work release were given alcoholic beverages and taken to places to have sex. The sexual favors did not always end upon released. The complaint alleges that guards would threaten to have former prisoners on supervision violated and returned to jail if they did not consent to sex with the “stalking” guard.

Former LCP guards Mark A. Johnson, John Schnipes, and James J. Walsh are awaiting trial on criminal charges related to sexually assaulting female prisoners. PLN will report on this as developments in this flagrant human rights scandal continue to unfold. See: Fox v. Lackawanna County, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Pa.), Case no. 3:16-cv-1511. 


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Related legal case

Fox v. Lackawanna County