Monitor named for troubled prison complex

State corrections officials have hired a veteran Kentucky warden to monitor a private prison in Wheelwright where several sexual assaults of inmates by prison staff have been reported.

Gary M. Beckstrom, the former warden at Little Sandy Correctional Complex in Elliot County, will be an on-site monitor for Otter Creek Correctional Complex.

The action "is a result of the recent allegations of sexual incidents at the facility," said Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

Beckstrom also will review the operational procedures at Otter Creek, Brislin said.

The $42,000 contract runs from July 30 to Jan. 30, 2010. Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the prison, has agreed to reimburse the state.

Otter Creek is at the center of investigations by Kentucky and Hawaii into allegations of repeated sexual assaults by prison staff.

CCA has contracts with both states to house prisoners at Wheelwright.

The allegations include the reported rape of a Hawaiian woman at the prison in June.

Additionally, a former prison guard was convicted last year in Floyd County of second-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor, for a July 3, 2008, sexual assault of an inmate from Kentucky.

Other cases under investigation date to 2006. Meanwhile, Beckstrom is directed to help Otter Creek's leadership "report and resolve issues," according to state documents.

"The Department takes these allegations very seriously, and Mr. Beckstrom, as a former warden at Little Sandy Correctional Complex, is a seasoned correctional professional who is familiar with the operations and administrative functions of a medium security prison," Brislin said.

Beckstrom has experience working with female inmates, Brislin said. Female inmates were temporarily housed at Little Sandy before their incarceration at Otter Creek.

Beckstrom could not be reached Monday for comment.

On Tuesday, the General Assembly's Government Contract Review Committee, the legislative panel that reviews most executive branch contracts, is to review Beckstrom's contract.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader