Residents sound off on sex scandal at prison board meeting

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Its been one week since the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office swooped into Lackawanna County charging seven people in a prison sex scandal.

The current and former guards are accused of using their power to sexually abuse female inmates.

For the first time since the arrests, the county prison board held a public meeting Wednesday and the issue was front and center.

Because the PA Attorney General’s Office says the investigation is still ongoing, prison board members really didn’t discuss the situation at length.

After being questioned by the public, members did say they’re taking the situation seriously.

Residents had a wide array of comments, questions and concerns.

“As an inmate, I will tell you there are still blind spots in that prison. That’s a fact!” former inmate Dave Davidson of Lake Sheridan said.

With seven current and former corrections officers now facing charges, prison advocate groups are asking to work with the county to create change.

“Would the prison board consider establishing a working group which would include Lackawanna County citizens and prison rights groups to study the systematic issue of sexual abuse,” Beth Ann Zero from the NEPA Prison Adovcates said.

Last week, PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro said his agents discovered a persistent culture of abuse at the prison for years.

He also set-up a hotline for other potential victims to come forward.

“Do current inmates have access to this hotline?” Dr. Stephanie Bressler with Progressive Women of NEPA asked. “Is privacy afforded to inmate callers?”

Warden Tim Betti says his ears are open to change.

“I’m reaching out to a couple different companies looking to talk to them about having them come in and do a screening or an assessment of our policies and procedures,” Warden Tim Betti said.

“It is way past high time that we do something!” Commissioner Laureen Cummings said after all the speakers finished.

In the wake of the scandal, Cummings is again calling for the privatization of the prison.

It’s a bold idea at least one resident supports.

“They very definition of insanity is to do the same things and expect a different outcome!” Michael Catanzaro of Childs said.

Another big question Wednesday involved legal bills.

County officials confirm they’ve paid out at least $150,000 to a private law firm during the prison probe investigation.

County solicitors, not commissioners, say they hired the lawyers to protect the county’s interests after agents seized more than 13 million emails during raids last year.

All of the current corrections officers arrested last week are currently on paid administrative leave.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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