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In lawsuit, Arkansas inmate says prison allowed sexual abuse by ex-chaplain

By Brandon Riddle

This article was published September 8, 2017 at 12:44 p.m.


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Attorneys for an inmate at a northeast Arkansas prison have filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Correction, arguing that officials failed to address the abuse she faced from a chaplain who has since been convicted of sexual assault.

The plaintiff, Carolyn Arnett, argued in a filing Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas that her civil rights were violated when prison staff knowingly allowed former chaplain Kenneth Dewitt’s sexual misconduct to happen for several years.

Arnett was sentenced in June 1999 for her role as an accomplice in a homicide. Her prison term reportedly began in November of that year at the McPherson Unit, a women’s state prison in Newport.

Dewitt, who worked for the Correction Department from 2001 until 2015, is serving a five-year prison term for the sexual assault of three female inmates.

Attorneys with Laux Law Group say conversations between Arnett and Dewitt became sexual in nature in December 2010 and the chaplain inappropriately touched the inmate and forced her to perform sexual acts.

[DOCUMENT: Read Arkansas inmate's full lawsuit]

The alleged abuse continued for about four years through September 2014, with Dewitt demanding that she keep quiet.

“The abuse, intimidation, retaliation and deliberate indifference that [Arnett] suffered was part of a pattern identified by the DOJ as early as November 2003 which was never appropriately addressed or remedied, and which continued unabated at McPherson up to, and beyond, June 2015,” attorneys state.

That lawsuit names Correction Department Director Wendy Kelley as a defendant, among several other employees who worked for or continue to work at the agency.

It alleges that agency officials were aware of inappropriate relationships between inmates and Dewitt but showed “deliberate indifference” toward the misconduct.

In May 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice began an investigation into the conditions at the McPherson unit, with on-site visits in July, August and September of that year, records show.

When that investigation was completed in November 2003, findings showed that the prison had “inadequate medical and mental health care” and had a “failure to protect inmates from harm,” according to court documents.

The Justice Department recommended measures to address the deficiencies, though prison personnel “failed to implement” those outlined steps, according to the complaint.

That showed “deliberate indifference to the safety and well-being of McPherson inmates, including [Arnett],” the lawsuit claims.

Correction Department spokesman Solomon Graves said that the agency "does not generally comment on potential or pending litigation."

Read Saturday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 total comments

mrcharles says... September 8, 2017 at 4:41 p.m.

A chaplin? Surely, within the recent spiraling out of control problem here in this state that has the kind of leaders it does, should I mention Rev, Floyd the celestial decoder who has a particularly nasty way of talking about gay people. Yet he seems to be an expert how the devil is working with them to make us bad-- sure wish we could have had him back when we had slaves to say bad things about slave holders and how evilllllllllll they are/were.

Hope we find what denomination the chaplin is so we dont taint the whole group by his actions.

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DEE672 says... September 8, 2017 at 5:16 p.m.

Today's paper has more male molesters of children and anyone defenseless under their control. I am aghast at the degradation of the American character . I must write an essay on the subject since it is becoming deeply disturbing, especially in regard to those using religion as a cover for their vile behavior.

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information19 says... September 8, 2017 at 7:50 p.m.

Happened every damn day that someone's rights or person was being violated. The damn people in the damn system covered up & protected each other. Saw it daily. And for those of you who say too bad (if it was your kid and it is your tax dollars at use), most of the offenders will get out of prison some day. Is it really in your best interest to talk s*&t and denigrate the person? or are you willing to use your Christian principles?

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