Inmate at juvenile prison attacks teacher

Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

TRENTON — An 18-year-old male inmate scheduled to be released from state prison in April is suspected of attacking a female teacher inside Lancaster Correctional Institution.

The attack reportedly happened around noon on Jan. 25 at Lancaster, a 524-bed youthful offender state prison in Gilchrist County. The incident is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Corrections.

The name of the victim, who has been an academic teacher in the prison system since 1996, was not released. The suspect was identified by FDLE and prison officials as Joseph Clowers.

"The victim was able to identify her attacker," said FDLE spokeswoman Sharon Gogerty. "We had two crime scene investigators who collected evidence that we suspect will link this suspect to the scene."

Prison spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said the incident happened inside the main education building during lunch, a time when inmates are not usually inside the building. Details about how the incident was discovered and other information was being withheld until the investigation has been completed.

The teacher was taken to a hospital for treatment and was released. She had not returned to work by Tuesday.

After being questioned, Clowers was transferred to Florida State Prison near Starke, where he was being held in close custody on Tuesday. At least one other inmate was moved to another prison following the attack, but no additional information was released about what role the other inmate may have played.

Clowers was serving a three-year sentence for convictions in Polk County of grand theft of a firearm and burglary of a dwelling. His tentative release date published on the prison Web site was April 26.

Although Clowers has been identified as a suspect in the attack, he had not been charged Tuesday.

"It's not unusual for an inmate not to be charged right away because they are already behind bars," said Spencer Mann, spokesman for State Attorney Bill Cervone.

All the agencies involved said it was rare for an inmate to attack a civilian prison employee. Gogerty and Mann could not recall if they had ever been involved in such a case.

Prison officials said the last time they could recall an inmate attacking an uncertified prison employee was at least three years ago in a Panhandle prison.

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