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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Judge rules for former warden in lawsuit over prison sex crimes

A federal judge has ruled the former warden and deputy warden of the women's prison in McLoud are not to blame for sex crimes there.
Eleven inmates who were victimized by guards at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center sued the Oklahoma Corrections Department, former Warden Millicent Newton-Embry, former Deputy Warden Carla King and others in 2013.
The lawsuit was filed in Oklahoma City federal court. It alleged the wardens created “a corruptive den for sexual depravity where the guards were authorized to prey upon and commit acts of excessive force against the inmates whenever and wherever they chose without meaningful consequence.”
One fired guard, Jamie Baker, pleaded guilty in 2014 to rape and other sexual offenses involving eight of the inmates. He is serving a 20-year prison sentence.
U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton dismissed the claims against the Corrections Department in 2014. In June, the judge ruled in favor of the former warden and deputy warden and against the nine women still suing. 
“What happened to plaintiffs should not have occurred, regardless of whether the particular sexual incidents are determined to be consensual or not,” the judge wrote in June.
“Plaintiffs' desire for someone to pay for what Baker did to them — beyond Baker's incarceration — is understandable. But under the circumstances reflected by the parties' submissions here, the law does not impose liability on the otherwise innocent supervisors of the facility where the plaintiffs' rights were violated.”
Will plaintiffs appeal?
The judge specifically rejected claims Newton-Embry could be held liable for the sex crimes because of inadequate staffing at the prison. Even though she was suspended without pay over staffing issues in 2012, “it is ... undisputed that Newton-Embry was trying to address the problem,” the judge noted.
Whether the plaintiffs appeal is up in the air. Their lead attorney, Brad Mallet, is giving up private practice to be general counsel of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. His last day at his current firm is Friday.
The inmates sued Baker, too, but it is unclear if he ever got notice of the civil lawsuit.
Newton-Embry now serves as the Corrections Department's coordinator for the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a federal law enacted in 2003 to cut down on sexual assaults in the nation's
prisons. 
..Nolan Clay

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