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Lawsuits: State ignored sexual assaults

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Sexual abuse and rape are not only "widespread" at Oregon's only women's prison, but the violence is ignored by prison staff and those who report it are punished, according to a series of multi-million dollar lawsuits filed against the Oregon Department of Corrections.

The Statesman Journal reports that five current and former inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility are suing the state, claiming they were raped, groped, assaulted and molested by a nurse in the medical unit.

The plaintiffs accuse prison staff of ignoring and allowing the nurse's predatory behavior to continue for years — and of retaliating against inmates who reported the alleged abuse.

Prison officials told the newspaper they take all allegations of sexual assault seriously, but declined to comment on the claims, citing the pending litigation.

An investigation by Oregon State Police found that 11 inmates reported some form of sexual contact with the nurse, but prosecutors declined to charge him, saying some of the accounts were unreliable and the case was "unsupportable" as a whole.

The nurse resigned from his position on Jan. 31, 2018.

Sex abuse cases have dogged Coffee Creek since it opened in Wilsonville in 2001 and through seven superintendent changes.

High profile cases include a former groundskeeper arrested in 2009 for sexually abusing inmates in a "rape shed" at the prison and a former corrections officer, who was convicted of custodial sexual misconduct in 2016 for repeatedly coercing an inmate into sex.

Stock photo from 123rf.com