Local

Former Rockview leader gets 2nd chance in Chester

Marirosa Lamas was removed from Rockview state prison, pictured, in 2013 after the rape and aggravated assault of a young female staffer by inmate Omar Best. On Friday, Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel tapped her to take over Chester state prison.
Marirosa Lamas was removed from Rockview state prison, pictured, in 2013 after the rape and aggravated assault of a young female staffer by inmate Omar Best. On Friday, Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel tapped her to take over Chester state prison. Centre Daily Times, file

Marirosa Lamas will fill a new role in the state Department of Corrections.

On Friday, Secretary John Wetzel announced that Lamas will take the reins at Chester state prison.

“Marirosa is a respected corrections veteran who has many skills, talents and expertise to offer this agency and specifically to SCI Chester,” Wetzel said. “She has become a national leader in the area of Crisis Intervention Team training and is perfectly situated to take SCI Chester in the right direction.”

Lamas is stepping back into the role of superintendent for the first time since 2013. That is when Wetzel removed her from that position overseeing both Rockview and Benner state prisons in Centre County.

Wetzel made that announcement in December 2013, after an investigation into the rape of a 24-year-old clerk in her supervisor’s Rockview office.

Omar Best was a Philadelphia area inmate who came to Rockview from Graterford where he had also assaulted a female employee, according to court documents. He harassed the Rockview victim for weeks before the 27-minute attack that included strangling her with his arm, leaving the whites of her eyes blood-red for weeks after. A nurse called it the worst employee assault she had ever seen.

During Best’s trial, witnesses testified that the victim asked supervisors and other employees about Best’s attention and how to get him to leave her alone. He was convicted of rape by forcible compulsion, rape of an unconscious victim, sexual assault and two counts of aggravated assault, and sentenced to life in prison.

When Wetzel made his 2013 changes, he acknowledged problems he attributed to “complacency.”

“After reviewing investigative information, it is clear to me that we need to take Rockview and Benner in a new direction,” Wetzel said in a statement at the time. “Our review has revealed many instances where our own policies had not been followed, as well as areas where our procedures needed to be improved.”

Rockview houses 2,371 prisoners. Benner is home to 2,071, for a total of 4,442 between the two facilities.

Chester has just 1,277 inmates. It is a medium-security facility housing those with a “documented substance abuse history.”

According to the DOC, Lamas started her career as a counselor and unit manager at Camp Hill before moving up to staff assistant to the deputy secretary at the department’s headquarters and deputy superintendent for centralized services at Frackville and Rockview. She served as superintendent at Muncy before her appointment to Rockview and Benner.

After being removed from the Centre County prisons, the DOC release said she “played an integral role in providing training to DOC employees in the area of Crisis Intervention Team training and advancing the DOC in its efforts to improve and enhance its delivery of services to mentally ill inmates.”

Lamas and the DOC were sued by Best’s victim. The defense in that case created a problem for Attorney General Kathleen Kane in September 2015 after documents were filed in the suit alleging “contributory negligence” on the woman’s part. After national attention on the case, the state settled with the victim for $3.3 million in December 2015.

Clifford Rieders was the attorney for the victim. He was unaware that Lamas was being put in charge of another prison.

“I’m surprised to hear that,” he said.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

  Comments