Benninghoff Calls for Formal Investigation of Sexual Assault at SCI Rockview
8/1/2013

BELLEFONTE – Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) today sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett requesting a formal state investigation – in addition to the criminal investigation being conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police – into the sexual assault on Thursday, July 25, of a female worker at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Rockview.

“There is no excuse for a worker being sexually assaulted at her job,” Benninghoff said.  “This woman – the prison worker – is someone’s daughter.  It is difficult for most of us to imagine something like this happening to our daughter or sister at her job.  We simply would not tolerate it.  I recognize that working in a prison involves certain dangers, but failing to protect staff against a sexual assault is unacceptable.”

Benninghoff said the formal investigation is necessary to protect prison workers in the future.

“The criminal investigation will focus on any laws that were broken and charges that should be filed against the perpetrator,” Benninghoff said.  “I am proposing a separate investigation to determine how something like this could happen and how we can prevent it from reoccurring in the future.  Criminal investigations are about justice.  I want a separate investigation to focus on prevention, security procedures and staffing.”

On the morning of Thursday, July 25, a female staff member at SCI Rockview was sexually assaulted by a male inmate.  The employee, a unit clerk assigned to a housing area, was rendered unconscious during the assault and was later taken by ambulance to Mount Nittany Medical Center.

In his letter, Benninhoff offered to work with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) to conduct hearings in Centre County.

“I’m willing to work with the administration or with my colleagues in the House to try to get some answers and, more importantly, solutions and means of prevention,” Benninghoff said.

Representative Kerry Benninghoff
171st
District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact:  Dan Massing
717.772.9845
dmassing@pahousegop.com
KerryBenninghoff.com / Facebook.com/RepBenninghoff

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EDITORS NOTE – Below is a copy of Benninghoff’s letter to Corbett:

July 31, 2013

 

Governor Corbett
601 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA  17120

Dear Governor Corbett:

I am writing to request a formal, comprehensive investigation, in tandem with the State Police criminal investigations, to the staffing procedures, scheduling, and policies at SCI Rockview. These failures resulted in the brutal, physical, sexual assault of a young female, non-officer, employee at SCI Rockview on Thursday, July 25, 2013, at approximately 10:00 a.m.

It is my understanding this assailant had a history of violence and was convicted of a prior sexual assault.  How is it that any inmate with this history could be assigned a work detail near or around a female employee?  While I am aware of many other details, I will reserve them to a future discussion with each of you.  There obviously was a breakdown in security procedures that would allow this type of inmate ANY time alone with a young lady.  There are not any excuses for this and it never should have happened.

The Department of Corrections and we, as representatives of the Commonwealth, not only have the responsibility to keep our constituents safe from those who choose to commit crimes, but also a responsibility to insure those persons working in and around correction institutions a safe work environment.

Further, it has been brought to my attention that this is the 5th assault at SCI Rockview in the last month or two.  This exceeds similar sized institutions’ annual assault rates and even Rockview’s, which generally has a higher staff assault rate! 

I am formally requesting that immediate action be taken.  Whether additional lockdowns are in order or, at minimum, re-assignments of all sexual predator class inmates prohibiting them from working in or be granted access to areas with non-officer female employees.

Additionally, I believe our current staffing policies need severe review as I am informed we are short-staffed in many areas while paying extreme amounts of overtime in other areas to cover shifts and areas with ineffective staff ratios.

I acknowledge prisons are some of the toughest blocks in the state to patrol, however, with today’s technology and properly trained staff these physical assaults should be brought to a minimum.  Sexual assaults of staff within our SCIs should never occur!

If it would be helpful, I would be willing to assist Judiciary Committee Chairman Marsico in hosting hearings in Centre County to address the non-criminal aspects of what led up to this brutal assault and to ensure better, more efficient policy to enhance our prevention of this type of sad, unfortunate assault.

I can be reached at any time by calling my personal cell xxx-xxx-xxxx to discuss this further and collectively work for safer conditions for our employees within our state correction institutions.

Sincerely,

KERRY A. BENNINGHOFF
State Representative
171st Legislative District

cc:        Secretary Wetzel
Speaker Sam Smith
Leader Mike Turzai
Judiciary Chairman Ron Marsico
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