The Arkansas Department of Correction said today it was aware of allegations of sexual abuse against an ex-chaplain at the McPherson Unit for women in Newport, but no other staff members. The ADC statement came in response to yesterday’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice plans to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and harassment by multiple staff members at McPherson.
“At this time, the Department of Correction is aware only of allegations against a former staff member,” department spokesperson Cathy Frye said in a written statement. “If the U.S. Justice Department has knowledge of any additional allegations, it surely will provide us with the information so that we can investigate and take appropriate action.”
Frye went on to explain some of the specifics of the alleged abuse.
In December 2014, two inmates reported to McPherson staff that they had been sexually involved for 3 1/2 years with a former chaplain. The allegations were immediately reported to the Internal Affairs Division, which then asked Arkansas State Police to investigate.
In April of this year, Arkansas State Police agents turned over their investigative file to the prosecuting attorney in the Third Judicial Circuit.
It is against the law to have sexual relations with an inmate, and the Arkansas Department of Correction has zero tolerance for such acts. Sexual relationships between inmates and staff cannot be consensual.
The allegations in the DOJ’s press release will be investigated and addressed as soon as possible. We will certainly move forward cooperatively as we want to address any behavior that violates our policies. At this time, other than the report we received in December, which centered on one former employee and was promptly forwarded to the Arkansas State Police, we have seen only professionalism on the part of our McPherson staff. Our officers and employees remain dedicated to providing a safe and humane environment for our inmates.