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Senator Questions Iraq Prison Contractors' Histories

June 03, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Four former state prison officials hired by the Justice Department to help set up Iraq's prison system have backgrounds that should have precluded them from the private contracting jobs, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.

Three of them visited various Iraqi prisons over a period of about four months in 2003 and worked to get them operating. A fourth was given a supervisory position in the reconstituted prison system.

One of the four, Terry Stewart, was sued by the Justice Department in 1997, when he ran Arizona's Corrections Department. At least 14 female inmates were repeatedly raped, sexually assaulted and watched by corrections workers as they dressed and showered, the suit charged.

At the time, officials also charged that prison authorities had denied investigators access to examine abuse complaints.

After the state agreed to provide more stringent oversight of employees who deal with female inmates, the suit was dropped. Neither Stewart nor any other officials admitted wrongdoing.

Schumer also cited John Armstrong, who left as Corrections Department chief in Connecticut last year after the agency was sued by female guards who alleged that they were sexually harassed. Armstrong denied that his departure had anything to do with the lawsuit.

Also named by Schumer was O.L. "Lane" McCotter, who resigned as head of the Utah Corrections Department after a mentally ill inmate died after spending 16 hours strapped to a restraining chair.

The fourth person was McCotter's predecessor, Gary DeLand, who headed the agency in the late 1980s, when civil rights lawyers charged that his department denied appropriate medical care to inmates. DeLand has denied the charge.

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