Former prison guard says he was harassed and hazed

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A former corrections officer at the Maine State Prison says he was harassed and hazed by several senior guards, including supervisors, apparently just because he was a new recruit. Cory Peaslee says the incidents happened in May, after he had been working at the prison less than two months.

Peaslee, who is 20 years old, says he took the correctional officer (CO) job because he thought the experience would help fulfill his longtime goal of becoming a police officer. He went through the state's three month CO training program, graduated in mid-March, and then immediately went to work at the prison. Peaslee says there were no problems until one Sunday in May, when a sergeant began to harass him. Peaslee says it began with hiding his lunchbox, then locking him outside the security fence area within the prison, then making him carry what turned out to be joke notes around the complex to other sergeants. Peaslee says he was even told to read a message over the two-way radio that belittled him.

The final incident that day, he says, came when three other guards, with a sergeant present, jumped him, wrestled him to the floor and tried to handcuff him. Peaslee says he resisted until a sergeant held a can of pepper spray in his face and threatened to spray him if he did not allow himself to be cuffed.

Peaslee says he did not file a complaint about the behavior. He says he was upset, "but I wasn't going to say anything to anyone, 'cause that makes you look weak. 'cause a lot of them are from the military and maybe they expect me to handle it and let it slide off my shoulders."

However, several other guards did report the harassment to the warden, and Peaslee says he was called to a meeting with top prison administration several days later. He says the warden told him the harassment was wrong and should not have happened. Peaslee says he later suffered an anxiety attack, and a doctor told him he should not return to work inside the prison. Peaslee says he didn't want to go back, because he no longer felt safe working there.

The state transferred him to a job at the Department of Transportation. Peaslee says he has no desire to sue the state, and that he hopes the prison leadership makes some changes as a result of his experience.

"What I wanted," says Peaslee, "was for them to look at everything that happened that day and realize this is wrong. We shouldn't be doing this to new employees. We should be wanting to help them teach them the ropes, show what they should do and shouldn't start their career at the prison by harassing them to this extent."

The Department of Corrections only said "no comment" when asked about the situation. However, Peaslee says he has been told unofficially that there will be a hearing on the incident next month, and he may be asked to testify.


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