An Illinois report found Pontiac Correctional Center administrators and employees subjected a gay prison guard to a hostile work environment in 2018 and 2019.
In the fall of 2018, an anonymous employee (“Employee 1”) at the Pontiac Correctional Center wrote up an inmate for sexual misconduct.
Lt. Adrian Corley, who supervised Employee 1, told the employee to draw a picture of the incident on a falsified form and sign it. Corley then circulated the form for the amusement of himself and others, according to the report from the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG).
Following the fake form’s dissemination, Employee 1 faced harassment, including anti-gay slurs and a co-worker who pressed his body against Employee 1’s, per the report.
“Prisons are already difficult and dangerous working environments, where staff face challenges posed by inmate misconduct on a daily basis,” the report said. “It is entirely unacceptable that staff at Pontiac Correctional Center also suffer mistreatment at work by their own coworkers and supervisors, due to the unprofessional working environment that flourishes there.”
Despite Employee 1’s repeated reports about the harassment, including his belief that the harassment was due to his sexual orientation, the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Office of Affirmative Action elected not to open an investigation, according to the report.
The office is in charge of addressing employee needs on matters including harassment.
Employee 1 requested a hardship transfer to another IDOC facility at multiple points, but was denied and eventually left IDOC, the report said.
The OEIG report concluded that Corley and other managers “engaged in conduct unbecoming of IDOC supervisors” and that a Pontiac Correctional Officer sexually harassed Employee 1.
As a result of the investigation, Corley and assistant wardens Glendal French and Emily Ruskin saw their employment terminated.
Multiple other administrators, who’d been involved in the circulation of the falsified form, resigned or faced other disciplinary actions. Fernando Chavarria, the administrator of the Office of Affirmative Action, also served a 30-day suspension.
Pontiac Correctional Center is a maximum security facility in Pontiac, Ill. This is not the first time people have raised concerns about abuse or harassment at the center. In April, two Black mental health workers at Pontiac talked to WBEZ about suffering racist and sexist harassment from other staff members. In 2018, a court-appointed monitor said he was convinced Pontiac staff abused inmates with mental illness.
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