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Five High-Level Staffers Out of Michigan Prison After State Watchdog Uncovers Anti-Gay Harassment

by Kevin W. Bliss

The Michigan Office of the Executive Inspector General (OIG) released a 50-page report on December 5, 2022, detailing a culture of unprofessional and irresponsible behavior at the management level of the Pontiac Correctional Center (PCC). Prompted by a complaint of sexual harassment, the investigation resulted in the termination of three high ranking officials plus the suspension of several more. Two others were also forced into retirement.

A guard at PCC – referred to in the OIG report as Employee #1 – filed complaints against the prison’s administration on June 13 and June 21, 2019, claiming he was ridiculed for his sexual orientation. In the fall of 2018, Employee #1 disciplined a prisoner for openly staring at the guard and masturbating. His superior, Lt. Adrian Corley, created a fake DOC disciplinary form and told Employee #1 he was required to fill it out – including a section where he was instructed to draw a depiction of the incident. The completed fake report was then shared with the Warden, assistant wardens, and several others. Employee #1 said he was humiliated.

Several other incidents of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation including anti-gay slurs, prank calls, and inappropriate contact were also detailed in the complaints. Employee #1 said he attempted to transfer several times before he finally resigned on January 6, 2020.

The OIG report stated DOC cultivated an unprofessional and irresponsible work environment not just at PCC, but at many of its prisons. It said the only way to end the culture of abuse was to ensure that serious consequences were imposed.

The investigation resulted in the firing of Corley and Assistant Wardens Glendal French and Emily Ruskin, as well as the early retirement of Warden Terri Kennedy and Maj. John Wheat. Majs. Susan Prentice, Rich Cooper and William Shelton were suspended, and the prison’s affirmative action department head, Fernando Chavarria, was reassigned and required to complete additional training.

“Prisons are already difficult and dangerous working environments, where staff faces challenges posed by inmate misconduct on a daily basis,” the report read. “It is entirely unacceptable that staff at [PCC] also suffer mistreatment at work by their own coworkers and supervisors, due to the unprofessional working environment that flourishes there,”

Additional sources: WBEZ, WEEK

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