Ex-Juvenile Detention Officer Accused of Sexually Battering Inmates
Pinellas sheriff’s deputies said he was “grooming” some of the juvenile inmates by offering the juveniles gifts and developing a relationship with them so it would lead to a sexual encounter.
CLEARWATER – A former juvenile detention officer has been accused of sexually battering multiple inmates at the facility, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.
Joshua Ryan Harrison, 27, was charged with two counts of Sexual Battery (Custodial Authority) and one count each of Battery and Introduction of Contraband in a Juvenile Detention Facility. The victims were 17 years old when the crimes happened.
He formerly worked for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Harrison was fired Feb. 4.
Simone Marstiller, secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, issued this statement: “The Department of Juvenile Justice does not tolerate victimization of children in the agency’s care, and we expect this individual will be zealously prosecuted for his reprehensible actions. DJJ will ensure the youth involved receive the therapy and other services necessary to address the trauma they have suffered because of this predator. I also have directed my staff to explore screening tools to help us reduce the likelihood of anything like this happening again.”
Pinellas sheriff’s detectives said they began their investigation Jan. 30 after Department of Juvenile Justice staff at the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Facility in Clearwater notified deputies of suspicion that one of their juvenile detention officers was involved in inappropriate conduct with juveniles at the facility.
Detectives say staff at the detention facility initially heard rumors that Harrison was passing notes and bringing food and contraband to juveniles at the facility. Staff at the detention center conducted an independent investigation and confirmed Harrison was on surveillance video bringing food and drinks to juvenile inmates.
Harrison, who was hired May 1, was assigned to monitoring the juvenile inmate housing areas during the midnight shift, a position that should have little to no contact with juvenile inmates.
Detectives said they learned that Harrison was passing notes and having personal contact with juvenile inmates during his shift. Detectives said Harrison was “grooming” some of the juvenile inmates by offering them gifts and developing a relationship with them so it would lead to a sexual encounter.
Detectives identified three 17-year-old male juveniles that, they said, were victimized by Harrison during January.
According to the first juvenile, Harrison offered to provide money to the boy and his mother after his release from detention. Harrison wrote notes to the boy and brought him food. On Jan. 28, Harrison entered the
boy’s cell, rubbed his genitals, and performed oral sex on him. Deputies said Harrison asked the boy to masturbate for him before offering him $400 not to say anything.
The second juvenile said Harrison would play games with him. If the boy lost the game, the boy would have to expose himself to Harrison. If Harrison lost the game, Harrison would provide the boy with food and contraband. Deputies said Harrison sent the boy notes and made a similar request for the boy to masturbate for him. On Jan. 21, Harrison entered the boy’s cell and touched him. Harrison returned to the same boy’s cell later that morning, kissed the boy, touched the boy’s privates and had intercourse with him.
The third boy said Harrison entered his cell around Jan. 20 and groped him. The boy tried punching Harrison and Harrison walked out of the cell. Detectives say surveillance video at the facility corroborated the boy’s
Detectives said that at least five other juvenile inmates reported that Harrison asked them for sex. He bribed them with food or drinks to expose themselves. He allowed inmates to use his cellular phone, allowed inmates to view pornography on his cellular phone, and provided them with Xanax.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held a press conference Tuesday (March 5) to discuss the arrest. To watch the press conference, go to youtu.be/C7YCATfOf2E.
Pinellas Sheriff | Crime | Sexual Battery | Arrests | Tampabay News
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