Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday ordered some 400 female inmates removed from a privately run prison after widespread allegations of sexual misconduct involving the predominantly male corps of corrections officers.
Beshear ordered the women moved from Otter Creek Correctional Complex, operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, to the state-run Western Kentucky Correctional Complex starting by July 1.
The move came four months after the Kentucky Department of Corrections called for security improvements at Otter Creek in a report on the handling of 18 alleged cases of sexual misconduct by prison guards there.
"There is no place for this kind of behavior in our system," Beshear said Friday.
Under Beshear's order, the male inmates now held the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Lyon County will be moved to Otter Creek and other facilities around the state.
Other demands by state
State investigators had made a series of demands to protect women inmates at Otter Creek, including basic strategies like assigning female guards to supervise sleeping quarters, hiring a female security chief, and shuffling staffing so that at least 40 percent of the work force is female.
Beshear said finding enough women willing to work as corrections officers at Otter Creek had been difficult.
Perched on a mountainside above Wheelwright, the Otter Creek prison came under public scrutiny when female inmates from Hawaii complained that they had been the subject of sexual assaults by their male guards. Corrections officials in Hawaii removed 165 inmates from Otter Creek last year, citing safety concerns.
Corrections Corp. of America issued a statement Friday saying they expect the switch from female to male inmates to occur during the month of July.
"We value our long-standing partnership with Kentucky and will work closely with department officials to ensure a smooth transition," said company vice president Steve Conry.
‘A few bad apples’
Company spokesman Steve Owen previously said that his company had taken steps to prevent sexual assaults in the prison. Those steps, he said, included installing video cameras to deter sexual misconduct and to help investigators determine the validity of future allegations.
Owen had said "the rogue actions of a few bad apples" led to unfair characterizations of Otter Creek employees.
Besides eliminating what had become a public relations nightmare for Kentucky officials, Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said moving male inmates to Otter Creek could save the state some $2.2 million a year.