PHOENIX — Arizona’s workplace safety agency confirmed Thursday that it has launched a review of the rape of a teacher inside a state prison classroom.
The teacher was alone in the room with no guard nearby when a convicted rapist assaulted her, documents state.
The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health review comes a week after a report by The Associated Press highlighted concerns about how the Jan. 30 assault occurred.
The agency said the review was launched as a result of those reports about the rape at the Eyman state prison southeast of Phoenix.
The review doesn’t mean there will be a full investigation, agency spokeswoman Rachel Brockway said.
The agency can’t give the state Department of Corrections notice that it plans to investigate, and if the agency does proceed, it is barred from discussing it unless a citation is issued and no litigation is underway, Brockway said.
The Department of Corrections did not report the assault to ADOSH. It is only required to report incidents in which there is a fatality or more than three people are hospitalized.
Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said the department will cooperate and assist with any investigation and is always reviewing its security policies to ensure staff are safe.
Spokesman Doug Nick previously said there were no security issues at the prison but said officials are now adding cameras in prison classrooms. Nonguards statewide were issued pepper spray in the weeks following the assault, but Nick said that had already been planned.
The attack occurred at the prison’s Meadows Unit, which houses about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders. The teacher was administering a high school equivalency test to about a half-dozen inmates in a classroom with no guard nearby and only a radio to summon help.
The Department of Corrections issued only a bare-bones press release after the attack, but the AP pieced together what had happened based on interviews and investigatory reports obtained under the Arizona Public Records Act.
The teacher told investigators that inmate Jacob Harvey lingered in the class as the other inmates left, then asked to use the bathroom before stabbing her with a pen, forcing her to the floor and sexually assaulting her. She said she screamed for help but none came.
After the attack, reports say Harvey tried to use her radio to call for help. It had apparently been changed to a channel the unit’s guards didn’t use, so Harvey let the woman use a phone, according to the reports.
A former deputy warden at the prison, Carl ToersBijns, said the assault highlights chronic understaffing and lax security policies that put staff members at risk.
State prison officials, however, dismiss the concerns. They say assault is a risk that comes with the job of overseeing violent prison inmates.
The state safety agency can issue citations if it finds the prison violated worker safety laws. It can also consult with prison officials on how to improve safety standards.
The teacher was treated and released from a hospital after the assault and has filed a workers’ compensation claim. The AP does not usually identify victims of sexual assault and she did not want to comment on the case.
Harvey, 20, was charged last month with sexual assault, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. A public defender was appointed, and Harvey pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. The public defender assigned to his case has declined to comment.
Harvey was in the first year of a 30-year sentence for the brutal home invasion rape of a suburban Phoenix woman in 2011.