Former employee speaks out about safety inside prisons

New developments surrounding an alleged attack and sexual assault on a teacher inside an Arizona prison.

On Thursday, a judge ruled that a teacher's lawsuit against the state could go forward, and now a former employee of the prison has come forward saying she also feared for her safety while working behind bars.

The woman worked at the Department of Corrections for 23 years but left before the teacher was allegedly raped.

She left in good standing and says the last ten years she worked there she felt unsafe and feared something bad would happen.

Kathy Cooper does not want her face shown, but she says she worked with a teacher at the Eyman Prison in Pinal County, who says she was raped by an inmate there last May.

"I was beside myself, I had gone through every necessary step possible to let them know I did not feel safe," said Kathy Cooper.

Cooper says she worked as a DOC Officer for almost seven years and a Prison Librarian for 17 years where she only had a radio, no other security.

"By myself with up to 35-40 inmates by myself sex offenders and all," she said.

Doug Nick, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, says it is standard for DOC Librarians only to have a radio to call for help, if needed.

"Our number one priority is the safety of the institution, which includes the staff, the inmates, and the general public," said Doug Nick.

He said Cooper did file ten reports from 1999 until 2011.

"We have no indication she wrote anything other than routine incident reports indicating a problem in a unit that needed to be addressed and was addressed. We have no indication she expressed that type of concern to her supervisors, not saying she didn't, but we don't have any record of that," he said.

What Cooper is saying coincides with what the teacher claims, that there was nobody with her, just the radio. 

"I can't get into the discussion about the teacher unfortunately, we are obviously concerned about that situation," said Nick.

Cooper says she is speaking out now in hopes that no other staff are injured.

"Staff safety definitely needs to be put on the list of top priority issues, and it hasn't been for a while," said Cooper.

Since the teacher was allegedly raped, the DOC spokesperson says they've retrained personnel in the use of their radios, given some pepper spray to some employees, and continue to add cameras to the facilities along with other safety measures.
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