Part 1: New SCI Abuse Claims Surface, Head Of DE DOC Responds
SUSSEX CO., Del. - New claims of abuse within the Delaware Department of Corrections are surfacing.
47 ABC first shed light on this issue back in April after the death of an inmate at Sussex Correctional Institution.
Then in May, a civil lawsuit was filed, accusing Sussex Correction Lawrence McDonald of sexually assaulting at least nine patients in prison.
More accusers are apparently coming forward. One of them Josh Lewis, a former inmate at SCI, tells 47 ABC he's accusing the doctor of inappropriate fondling.
"It didn't matter what I went and saw him for, he would actually make you drop your pants," claims Lewis. "He'd be like 10-15 seconds down there and then asked you like, 'how does this feel?' And I'm like hold up you got to stop."
Lewis is just one of a number of former inmates making many serious accusations and lawsuits seeking restitution from reported physical and sexual torment from prison staff.
"Nobody should have to wake up and worry about being beat down," said Lewis.
Lewis spent more than a third of his life behind bars. He's only 25, now out on probation and apart of a lawsuit against Dr. McDonald.
"The guards would give him a nickname like 'Dr. Feel Good,'" claims Lewis. "It's like they knew about it and didn't do their job to report it."
DOC commissioner Robert Coupe wouldn't comment on the ongoing investigation. But Lewis says he's not alone. He claims while at the Sussex Violation of Probation Center, he and fellow prisoners were maced after inmates spilled water on newly-waxed floors. Then, COs reportedly flooded their cells, shackled them outside and forced to roll the logs for hours.
"My understanding is that the rolling of the log is used as an incentive tool when someone is refusing to do their assigned job," said Coupe.
"They call it Department of Corrections for a reason, you go there to be corrected," said Lewis. "It doesn't say in my plea bargain that I'm supposed to be beat, I'm supposed to be half molested by a doctor. It doesn't say any of that."
When asked if he felt prisoners are being abused physically and verbally, Coupe said "no," before adding, "on occasion, I do know that there are some officers that have and when it comes to our attention then we take action."
Coupe says all of the complaints are against hires before October 2013. That's when, he tells us, psychological screening started for COs. According to Coupe, the department initially only required these evaluations for parole and probation officers, a gap he saw in the hiring process when he took office last March.
The screening he claims helps filter out people with psychological vulnerabilities and makes sure candidates could withstand the pressure of the job.
"There's a lot of good officers doing it the right way and those are the ones we want to support," said Coupe. "Those are the ones we want to reward for following the rules."
DOC says SCI is set to change medical service vendors on July 1st. The change, 47 ABC is told, isn't due to on-going allegations.
To read Part 2 of 47 ABC's investigation into abuse claims at DOC, click here.
To read Part 3 of 47 ABC's investigation into abuse claims at DOC, click here.
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