State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Clerk Raped at Rockview Prison Agrees to $3.3 Million Settlement

by on December 03, 2014 3:55 PM

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has agreed to pay a $3.3 million settlement after the vicious rape of a female clerk at the State Correctional Institute at Rockview.

The woman was attacked near her office by inmate Omar Best, 36, on July 25, 2013.

Best reportedly grabbed the victim from behind and choked her. He then knocked the woman unconscious and raped her.

The victim suffered numerous injuries. Her neck and face were swollen, she had numbness in her limbs that lasted for months and suffered multiple bruises and scratches.

The woman filed a lawsuit naming as defendants the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, Rockview Superintendent Marirosa Lamas, Rockview Supervisor Sharon Clark and Rockview Correctional Officer Kenneth Shilling.

According to the lawsuit, the victim, who was a recent hire, was told she would not have any contact with inmates. However, she reportedly came into frequent contact with inmates because her office was located in an area directly on a housing unit.

The victim reportedly told Shilling on two occasions that she was uncomfortable with Best "being in her office and that she did not want him in her office any more."

Best was reportedly allowed to have "unsupervised access to the offices of female employees" even though he had assaulted a female assistant at a different prison, and was serving time for rape.

The lawsuit alleged that prison officials "were aware of Omar Best's prior rape conviction, his prior assault of a female prison work and the danger that this inmate posed."

A subsequent investigation found a breakdown in prison security including lapses in the response to employee reports of inappropriate inmate behavior; inadequate or non-existent emergency personal alarm systems for employees; Code of Ethics violations by staff not performing their duties; a lack of monthly unit staff meetings and documentation of issues discussed at those meetings; failure to provide and document required staff training; and a failure by prison administrators to inspect each housing unit on a regular basis as required.

The attack prompted a shake-up at Rockview with the removal of superintendent Marirosa Lamas and these changes in security procedures:

  • Relocating clerk typists away from inmate housing units
  • Providing all employees who do not have radios with personal duress systems to alert others of emergency situations
  • Increasing accountability measures to monitor the management of prison administration
  • Implementing new training procedures for all new hires to ensure appropriate training is provided in a timely manner

The settlement, which was signed in late November, acknowledges the victim will require "emotional and psychological support," and that there may be issues with the woman's ability to work in the future.

As part of the settlement, the victim will meet in-person with the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to discuss her concerns about security for non-contact prison employees.

Best was convicted on rape charges and sentenced to three life sentences with no chance for parole.

Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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