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Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018 12:07 am

Sex in prison

Former inmate claims abuse by counselor

 A former Logan Correctional Center inmate has sued three prison employees, saying that she was sexually assaulted by a prison counselor, then suffered retaliation when her claims came to light.

The inmate, identified as Jane Doe in her federal lawsuit filed last week, agreed to an interview, with her lawyer present, on the condition that she not be named. Nicole Schult, her lawyer who also is a staff attorney for a Chicago prisoner rights group, said that her client wishes to protect her privacy as well as the privacy of her nine-year-old daughter.

The woman says that Richard Macleod, her prison counselor, had sex with her four times after she told him to stop, with the assaults occurring between August of 2016 and April of last year. Under Illinois law, a prison employee who has sex with an inmate is guilty of a felony, and consent cannot be a defense. Schult says it’s a case of repeated rape. The woman says that there are other victims.

“He’s still there – he’s still there, doing this to other people,” the woman said. “Something needs to be done.”

In addition to Macleod, the woman has sued Margaret Burke, who was the warden at Lincoln when the alleged assaults occurred, and Todd Sexton, who was a prison internal affairs investigator, claiming that they retaliated against her by arranging her transfer out of Logan once she broke silence and said that Macleod had assaulted her. Lindsey Hess, corrections spokeswoman, declined comment, saying that the Department of Corrections doesn’t comment on pending litigation or personnel matters.

The woman, who was released from prison last month, says her ordeal began when she was assigned to a housing unit where Macleod was a counselor. She says in her lawsuit that she needed Macleod to facilitate court-ordered weekly telephone calls with her daughter, and when she asked about the calls, he took her to a room for an “interview.” While the two were alone in the room, she says that Macleod told her that she was pretty and asked if she would come by his office to “help” on weekends, when no other employees would be present.

A few days later, after speaking with her daughter by telephone in Macleod’s office, the woman says that Macleod kissed her, which came as a shock. On a weekly basis thereafter, the woman says, Macleod sexually assaulted and harassed her in his office while she was there to speak with her daughter by telephone, at times exposing himself while she was on the phone. In addition to calling her daughter, Macleod allowed her to call anyone she wished, the woman says, so phone records might corroborate her account. “I was calling friends and family from his office phone,” she says.

The woman says she warned Macleod that he was courting trouble by having nonconsensual sex with her.

“I even told him, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re going to lose everything,’” the woman says. “He wasn’t worried about it. … He went so far as to say, if anything was to happen, his friend would warn him first.” That friend, according to the lawsuit, was Sexton, the internal affairs investigator. In her lawsuit, the woman says that Sexton knew about Macleod’s conduct for nearly a year before an investigation began.

While she says that she was afraid that she’d be punished if she complained, the woman says it should have been obvious that something was amiss. She says that when she switched housing units, partly to get away from Macleod and partly to enroll in a substance abuse program, he arranged to continue as her counselor, even though counselors typically are assigned to inmates based on housing units. She also says that he summoned her from a dayroom to his office at night, which was out of the ordinary. And he once called a visiting room while she was visiting with her mother, trying to get her to come to his office.

“People should have been able to see something was going on,” the woman says.

The woman says that she eventually confided to other inmates, as well as her mother, who urged her to report Macleod. “I was scared to do that,” says the woman, who claims in her lawsuit that Macleod told her that if she complained, she would get “a year across the board,” meaning that she’d be sent to segregation and spend an extra year in prison.

The woman says an investigation began a year ago after inmates started talking about her and Macleod. At first, she says, she denied any sexual contact, but soon told Sexton that Macleod had been abusing her. She says that she was immediately transferred to Decatur Correctional Center, where she knew no one and calls to her daughter stopped for three weeks. She says she lost a gardening job and couldn’t complete cosmetology courses at Logan. Instead of transferring her, the woman says, Macleod should have been walked out of Logan.

The woman says Macleod deserves jail.

“He needs to see the position I was in,” the woman says. “You have no way over what happens in your life – I think he should be put in a point to feel like I felt.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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