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updated: 7/3/2014 7:21 AM

Worker safety agency investigating prison rape

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Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Arizona's workplace safety agency on Wednesday launched a full investigation of the prison system's safety policies after the rape of a teacher inside a state prison classroom.

The teacher was alone in a classroom with no guard nearby on Jan. 30 when a convicted rapist assaulted her. Details of the case were the subject of a June 19 report by The Associated Press.

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The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health began reviewing the case last week as a result of the AP reports. The agency then took the case a step farther Wednesday by launching a formal inspection of the Arizona Department of Corrections, spokeswoman Abbie Fink said.

The agency can't comment further on the investigation until it is concluded, Fink said. Such cases can take many months to complete.

Prison officials said there were no security issues at the prison, but they are now adding cameras in classrooms.

"Certainly we will fully cooperate with whatever they ask us to do," Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Nick said Thursday.

The attack raised questions about prison security given the fact that the teacher was put in a room full of sex offenders with no prison-guard supervision nearby. Authorities said the inmate, Jacob Harvey, lingered in the room after other inmates had left, stabbed the teacher with a pen and raped her.

The attack occurred at the Eyman prison's Meadows Unit, which houses about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders. The prison is in Florence, about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix.

A former deputy warden at the prison, Carl ToersBijns, has said the assault highlights chronic understaffing and lax security policies that put staff members at risk.

Harvey, 20, was charged last month with sexual assault, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. A public defender was appointed, and Harvey pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. The public defender assigned to his case has declined to comment.

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