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The Penobscot County Jail in Bangor found that at least five male guards either sexually harassed their female colleagues, created a hostile work environment, or otherwise failed to abide by the ethical standards required for their law enforcement positions in recent years, but jail officials allowed the guards to keep their jobs, according to information obtained through a public records request.
The guards, three of whom held leadership positions, received verbal and written reprimands, were suspended without pay for up to two weeks, or were demoted, but none were fired. All still work at the jail. One remains a supervisor.
Some of those men were also named in sex discrimination lawsuits against the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office that resulted in payouts of taxpayer money or had multiple policy violations in their personnel files, including for propositioning a recently released inmate. One corporal’s “humiliating” treatment of female staff triggered an independent investigation. His punishment for “persistently” abusing his power was a demotion to the position of corrections officer.
The female staff who sued said in their lawsuits that jail administrators did not adequately protect them or punish the men. All of the women have since left their jobs.
One female corrections officer had “complained to her supervisors repeatedly without anything being done to stop the abuse. She had no one to turn to, no one to protect her, and no one to stop [the corporal’s] abuse,” according to a 2014 court document.
Erin Rhoda is editor of Maine Focus, a journalism and community engagement initiative by the Bangor Daily News.
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