You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘sexual harassment in corrections’ category.

Joshua Dall-Leighton is accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate in his charge at the Southern Maine Reentry Center in Alfred.

Joshua Dall-Leighton of Standish, who made headlines in 2015 when he donated a kidney to a woman who was looking for a donor, denies accusations that he had sexual encounters with a female inmate he supervised. 2015 Press Herald fileJoshua Dall-Leighton of Standish, who made headlines in 2015 when he donated a kidney to a woman who was looking for a donor, denies accusations that he had sexual encounters with a female inmate he supervised. 

A trial begins Monday for a former prison guard accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a woman who was incarcerated at a transitional corrections facility in Alfred.

Joshua Dall-Leighton, 34, faces five charges of gross sexual assault and one of unlawful sexual contact. All are felonies, and he has pleaded not guilty.

Dall-Leighton received widespread media attention in June 2015 for donating a kidney to a woman who advertised her need for a new organ in the back window of her car. That gift of his kidney to a virtual stranger may play a role in his trial.

Among the motions filed in the case is a request by the state to keep that information from the jury. The defense objected, saying it was evidence of his character. It was not clear Friday how the judge had ruled on that motion and others.

The indictment states the alleged crimes took place on multiple days between December 2015 and February 2016. During that time, Dall-Leighton worked at a pre-release center for female inmates in Alfred, where the woman was finishing a prison sentence.

An affidavit filed in York County Superior Court by a Maine Department of Corrections detective describes alleged sexual encounters between the guard and the woman in a prison transport van. Dall-Leighton drove the van to take the woman to her workplace in Sanford, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit quoted a letter the woman wrote to a Bangor attorney describing the advances of an officer at the pre-release center. She said she eventually became intoxicated so she would be transferred from the Southern Maine Reentry Center in Alfred back to the Maine Correctional Facility in Windham to get away from him.

“I avoided sexual intercourse with this officer for some time but because of his position of power, and the many things I stood to lose, I felt pressured to engage,” she wrote. “This officer transported me to work several times per week and we were often alone while driving. I requested a job change, but was repeatedly denied. I felt I was in a no-win situation.”

Dall-Leighton stopped working at the pre-release center when he was charged, his defense lawyer told the Portland Press Herald at the time.

More than two years have passed since a York County grand jury indicted Dall-Leighton in November 2016. Neither the defense attorney nor the District Attorney’s Office returned a call for comment Friday.

The woman was convicted in January 2012 in Rockland of elevated aggravated assault, robbery and burglary. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison with all but six years suspended. Now 34 years old, she has been released and is on probation. The Portland Press Herald does not name the victims of alleged sex crimes without their consent.

She also filed a lawsuit in 2017 against Dall-Leighton, as well as the state and prison officials she said failed to protect her from the assaults. The former guard did not respond to the complaint, meaning he was in default. A federal judge then ordered him to pay $1.1 million to the former inmate, although it is not clear if he can or will pay that sum.

Ezra Willey, who represents the woman in the civil matter but does not have an active role in the criminal case, said he is pursuing options for his client to collect at least part of that award. The judge also dismissed the lawsuit against the state and the corrections officials, a decision Willey has appealed.

Willey credited the woman for coming forward with her allegations against Dall-Leighton and referenced the #MeToo movement that has shed light on sexual misconduct.

“She’s a recovery coach now,” he said. “She’s been speaking at different events about addiction. She’s really gotten out there in the community and is not only trying to help herself, but she’s really trying to help other people. I really admire her for that.”

Advertisements

Richard Pickett said incarcerated women shouldn’t get free menstrual products. But basic medical care isn’t a perk—it’s a human right.

download (12)

Earlier this month legislators in Maine voted on a bill amendment that would guarantee incarcerated people access to menstrual products. It’s a good idea: While a federal lawensures that federal prisons offer free pads and tampons, that’s not the case at state and local facilities, where supplies are often limited and women are forced to either devise their own solutions or scrounge together funds to purchase the items at the commissary.

However, four Republicans balked at the proposal and voted against it. Here’s how state representative and Dixfield police chief Richard Pickett put it, according to a reporter who was on the scene: Incarcerated women shouldn’t get more access to menstrual products because “the jail system and the correctional system was never meant to be a country club.”

Alex Acquisto, a statehouse reporter for The Bangor Daily News, quoted Pickett in a tweet. Per Acquisto’s account, Pickett argued that women already have all the menstrual products they need.

“Quite frankly, and I don’t mean this in any disrespect, the jail system and the correctional system was never meant to be a country club…. [T]hey have a right to have these and they have them. If that wasn’t the case, then I would be supporting the motion, but they do,” Pickett said, as cited in a tweet from Acquisto.

According to the Press Herald, several jails in Maine already provide free menstrual products, but incarcerated women have to request them. The proposed legislation would make the pads and tampons more freely available, and there would be no limit on the number that women could have at one time.

Whitney Parrish, a director at the Maine Women’s Lobby, broke it down for critics, according to the Maine Beacon.

“You’re given a limited supply of menstrual products per month, often of low quality due to cost saving, and when you run out, you’re out…. You may have no money to go to the commissary, and if you do, you may have to weigh that purchase against other necessities, like making phone calls to your children or attorney. You are forced to make the impossible decision of constructing your own menstrual products, using anything from clothing or notebook paper in place of a tampon,” she said.

Luckily, most saw it as Parrish does. A 6-4 vote allowed the bill amendment to advance, proving that most people understand that basic women’s health care isn’t a luxe perk. It’s a human right.

image.png

HALLOWELL — One corrections officer spread a false rumor that the new female officer at the state prison in South Windham was a stripper.

Another one called her “Genitalia,” instead of her real name, which also began with a “G.”

She was asked by a colleague if he could measure her buttocks. When she said no, he did it anyway. She was asked about her favorite sexual positions and to describe her breasts.

When her complaints were not taken seriously, she quit her job and filed sexual harassment and retaliation complaints against the Department of Corrections with the Maine Human Rights Commission, detailing her claims in a sworn statement.

The state settled the case. Cost to taxpayers: $20,000.

A beginning state trooper – a male – was placed under the supervision of a male sergeant, who took him on assignments to secluded locations, rubbed the trooper’s inner thigh and talked about skinny-dipping. The sergeant gave the trooper a rug and told him how good it felt to lay naked on it, according to the trooper’s sworn statement.

The trooper got a transfer, but the sergeant called him regularly, making comments about penises and oral sex and suggested they take a naked sauna together.

The trooper filed a sexual harassment complaint and the state settled the case out of court. Cost to taxpayers: $50,000.

A corrections officer was threatened on a website run by anonymous corrections staff after she complained of sexual harassment. Cost to taxpayers: $137,500.

Retaliation in the Human Services department, disability discrimination in Public Safety, sex discrimination in Corrections and on and on for a total of 45 such cases settled by the state in the past 10 years.

• The cost to taxpayers for a range of alleged bad behavior by state employees towards their fellow workers in the past 10 years is almost $1.85 million.

• The state has spent about another $500,000 to defend itself in the cases.

• Forty-four percent of the cases came from two law enforcement departments – Corrections and Public Safety, home of the Maine State Police. Those 20 settlements cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

• The most common charges were sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and retaliation, the latter often in response to filing a previous charge.

• Of the 19 state employees who said they experienced sexual harassment or discrimination, two-thirds were women.

• In all of the settlements, the state admitted no liability.

No tracking by department

State law requires that all new employees receive sexual harassment training their first year in the job, according to Assistant Attorney General Susan Herman.

Herman said her office does not track the claims to find out where there might be a chronic problem.

Public records do not include any disciplinary action that may have been taken in the 45 cases.

Some details kept secret

The settlement agreements – legally binding documents signed by the state and the employee – are often written in a way that prevents full public disclosure.

For example, in 34 of the 45 cases, in return for the settlement, employees and the state agreed not to disclose the terms of the agreements.

The secrecy goes even further in the 21 cases that have non-disparagement clauses. Typically, they state, “Both parties agree that they will not disparage the other.”

In 82 percent of the cases, the process began with the employee filing a complaint with the commission. (The others filed civil lawsuits.) The commission, a state agency established in 1971, investigates complaints of discrimination from public and private employees.

Webbert, the employment attorney, said, “Based on representing many state employees … I have observed that the worst problems … are in the law enforcement areas. … These are the areas that most often have leadership that sends a message to the rest of the organization of hostility or indifference to civil rights requirements, especially equal treatment and respect for women and workers with same-sex sexual orientation.”

Payments from state budget

The settlement payments don’t come from traditional insurance; the state is self-insured for these cases. That means the cash comes directly from the state budget.

The Department of Corrections, which runs the state’s prisons, is currently assessed $101,000, 10 percent of the total self-insurance budget, while it only has 6.8 percent of the state’s 18,500 employees. The reason is the disproportionate number of settlements in Corrections.

The department’s employee discrimination settlements were one reason the Legislature asked its investigative agency to evaluate Corrections in 2009. The Office of Program Evaluation and Accountability report was called “Organizational Culture and Weaknesses in Reporting Avenues Are Likely Inhibiting Reporting and Action on Employee Concerns.”

The report said intimidation, retaliation and distrust within Corrections kept a lid on exposing internal problems. Combined, the practices “appear unethical” and “expose the State to unnecessary risks and liabilities.”

Recent progress

According to two long-time state Human Resources officials, in the past two years there has been a push in state government to deal more effectively with discrimination and harassment.

The change was at least partially a reaction to the costly settlements.

She also praised a new attitude in Public Safety, which she traced to a new head of the state police, Col. Robert Williams.

Joyce Oreskovich, human resources director for the state, said “(Williams) is much more interested in fairness and equity” than previous management.

The two women said there’s been a shift in Corrections, also, under Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who took the job in early 2011.

“Very early on, Commissioner Ponte began talking about changing the culture in Corrections,” Shippee said. “I am definitely seeing an interest in swift and firm discipline that they’re not wavering on. That is one of the best ways to get across that we’re taking this seriously, if people are held accountable for these behaviors.”

‘They use a lot of retaliation’

One of the incidents that let to the OPEGA study was the 2008 case of Pamela Sampson, a corrections officer at the state prison in Warren.

In her lawsuit against the state, she said she was sexually harassed by a sergeant who was later fired for sexually harassing another officer.

When she complained to management, she said they retaliated by investigating her on charges of sexually molesting inmates.

She was later cleared, but she ultimately left the state job because of the stress and concern for her safety.

The state denied she was sexually harassed and that the sergeant was dismissed for harassment, but admits the charges against her “were not substantiated.”

The state settled her claim in 2007 for $66,000. Only six of the 45 claims were settled for a higher amount.

Although Sampson’s settlement has a non-disclosure and non-disparagement clause, she was willing to be interviewed.

“If you speak about anything against these guys (in Corrections), it’s not good,” she said. “They use a lot of retaliation. That’s why everything was thrown out in my case: They tried to create a false investigation against me.”

Sampson now lives in Bangor and is looking for a job in security.

“I wanted to continue working at my job, and I miss it very much,” Sampson said. “It’s just really hard right now.”

From the case files

Examples of discrimination charges from court documents and complaints filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission:

Bets on her sex life

The corrections officer was hired in 2001, one of the few females in that job. (The employee is not being identified because of the salacious nature of the allegations.) Among the claims in her sexual harassment lawsuit:

• Some fellow officers “had a betting pool about whom and when (she) would sleep with first,” including inmates.

• Rumors circulated that she “was willing to perform fellatio for $20.”

Advertisement

• She claimed her supervisor was trying to force her out because she had complained about the sexual harassment. One example she cited involved a report she said was designed to undermine her: that she witnessed a male officer demonstrate how he could touch his nose with his tongue.

According to the report, she said: “I can’t believe he can do that. I think I’m in love.”

In her court filing, she claimed she never made the remark. Instead, she said the officer was ordered by the supervisor to fabricate the comment. In the state’s response to that charge, it agreed that the officer admitted he did not hear the offensive comment, but denied that he was ordered to make up the claim.

The female officer eventually quit the department when she said behavior and comments by officers and a supervisor created “a hostile work environment.”

While the state contested some of her allegations, it eventually paid a lump sum cash settlement to her for $65,000.

The kissing supervisor

From 2007-2008, Trish Smith was a juvenile program worker at the Department of Corrections Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston. Her lawsuit against the department for creating a hostile work environment and retaliation details the case of a supervisor known for his advances towards female employees.

The suit, citing Smith’s allegations and also affidavits from other employees, is unusual in that the state admits some of the behavior.

Some examples of what the state admitted:

• The supervisor “made inappropriate comments and jokes of a sexual nature, inappropriately touched and hugged and attempted to kiss” Smith and demonstrated similar behavior with other employees.

• In March 2004, the supervisor “intentionally snapped” the bra of an employee.

The state denied some of the other claims by Smith, including that management failed to keep her supervisor away from her, as they had promised to do after she complained.

Smith’s suit said she felt forced to resign because of the unwanted contact with the supervisor.

The state settled for $69,500.

There is no public record of what happened to her supervisor.

— Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

Contact MCPIR at mainecenter@gmail.com or on the Web at pinetreewatchdog.org.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 207 other followers

Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

In collaboration with the Holistic Recovery Project, the Political Prisoners Blog provides a prisoner's view into what's happening at Maine's correctional facilities.

Only your vigilance on the outside can guarrentee that justice goes on on the inside.

If you'd like to contact one of our inmate bloggers, send us an email.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.

Advertisements