‘Pervasive Culture of Sexual Abuse’ – Attorney General Details Charges Against Lackawanna County Prison Officers

DUNMORE -- A pervasive culture of sexual abuse has existed for years at the Lackawanna County Prison said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro at a news conference Thursday morning.

Shapiro detailed grand jury findings that resulted in the arrests of seven current and former corrections officers on Wednesday.

Those officers are charged with several different types of sex crimes, all relating to the alleged sexual abuse of female inmates at the Lackawanna County Prison.

Shapiro said that their investigation is not over.

"Those seven corrections officers were charged based off of findings from a grand jury that met for about a year. The grand jury found that there was a culture of sexual abuse at the Lackawanna County Prison."

In a news conference at state police headquarters in Dunmore, Shapiro said that they are still investigating this case and that Wednesday's arrests are "not the final chapter in this horrible saga."

"I want to stress today that this investigation is very much ongoing, very much ongoing, whenever you see this kind of scope, whenever you see this kind of pervasive culture that was allowed to exist, you have to wonder how far up the chain this goes."

Shapiro says the charges filed Wednesday were recommended by a grand jury that met for about a year. He explained that the state took over the case in 2016. In September of last year, almost 100 agents took files from the prison and county offices.

"As a result of this investigation, I hope the culture changes, I hope that the leadership in this county responds to this, makes the necessary changes they need to make," said Shapiro.

When video of the arrests aired on Newswatch 16, we heard from a woman who claims abuse by one of the seven men -- George McHale.

She says McHale threatened her during one of her first nights behind bars in the fall of 2016.

"He came back later that night when everyone else was in bed. He locked all the other dorms, the other pods down, I guess is what you call them, called me out and told me to come to the bathroom. He made me do oral sex and he raped me repeatedly."

She says she had a feeling she wasn't alone after she went to other prison employees to report the abuse.

"I reported it to the medical staff and they told me, 'welcome to jail, you're going to enjoy this.'"

The attorney general also announced that there's been a local hotline set up for people to call if they have information about sexual abuse at the Lackawanna County Prison at 570-846-4074.

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