Harassment suit filed against Department of Correction

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WTNH/AP

August 8, 2002

HARTFORD — Female correction officers in Connecticut say they have had enough and will not tolerate sexual harassment by their fellow officers anymore. Eight officers have filed a class action lawsuit charging that Department of Correction officials allowed the behavior to persist.

Blunt tough talk from the attorneys who represent these women. Predatory sexual offenders inside the state's correctional facilities, they charge, are not limited to men who are behind the prison bars.

Under the best of circumstances, the Department of Corrections is a dangerous and difficult place to work says the lawyer who represents eight of the women.

But the population of predatory sexual offenders and uncivilized harassers, he goes on to say, is not limited to those men who are behind the prison bars.

"I complained about an officer who was blatantly telling inmates disgusting stories about myself," said Paulette Williams, an officer at the McDougal Correctional Institution in Suffield. "Claimed to have pictures and videos that was definitely untrue."

There are nearly 50-defendants named in the law suit which is being filed in Bridgeport Federal Court, including the department's commissioner, John Armstrong.

It's alleged female officers are forced to deal with a consistent barrage of pornographic materials in the work place, male officers exposing themselves and touching them in unwanted and sexually suggestive ways, as well as threats and retaliation when complaints are filed.

"They have been alone and abandoned in the department's grievance process when they have pleaded for help time and time again from Commissioner Armstrong and from his minions, help in stopping repeated blatant and pervasive acts of harassment and retaliation, help that has been denied at every turn," said

At the same time Ponvert was filing suit one the behalf of this group officers, Another group of female officers were also filing suit, also alleging a continuing pattern of harassment and retaliation at the Department of Correction.

The department's reaction came in a written statement from spokeswoman Christina Polce. "Up until this point our agency has listened and responded to the complaints that have been brought to our attention. Sexual harassment in the Department of Corrections has not and will not be tolerated. We've taken numerous steps to address this issue and we are committed to following through on any allegation brought forth."

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who will have to defend the department, tells us obviously he has an obligation to provide the department with a legal defense, but he says he's troubled by the allegations and looking into them.