By any definition, this is cruel and unusual.
Female inmates at an Indiana jail were subjected to a “night of terror” when male detainees gained access to their cells, the women allege in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed Friday, July 22, by eight women against Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel and current and former Clark County Jail officers. It’s the second lawsuit filed this summer following the alleged incident, with 20 women filing suit in June, court records show.
The women claim that on Oct. 23, 2021, jail officer David Lowe gave two male detainees keys to the interior of the jail in exchange for $1,000.
That night, the two male detainees and other male inmates went into restricted areas of the jail that housed women, according to the lawsuit.
“Numerous male detainees used the keys obtained from Lowe to enter Pods 4(E) and 4(F), where they raped, assaulted, harassed, threatened and intimidated the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, and other women, for several hours, resulting in significant physical and emotional injuries,” the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court of the Southern District of Indiana says.
The men threatened to further harm the women if they pressed the emergency call button, according to the lawsuit.
The women claim in the lawsuit that no jail officers came to their aid throughout the night, despite the assaults being viewable on surveillance video.
Scottie Maples, chief deputy for the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, said that when the first lawsuit was filed, the department would not comment on pending lawsuits, according to the News and Tribune.
Sheriff Noel has not publicly commented on the lawsuits.
The Clark County Jail is in Jeffersonville, about 2 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.
Days after the alleged incident, Lowe was fired and charged with trafficking with an inmate, aiding escape and official misconduct, WDRB reported. The station said Lowe admitted to accepting the bribe and allowing inmates to access restricted areas of the jail.
His criminal jury trial is scheduled for September, WHAS reported.
A previous civil rights lawsuit was filed in June by 20 women against Noel, Lowe and unnamed jail officers.
“Women were harassed, sexually assaulted, threatened and completely terrified,” Bart Betteau, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs, told WTHR. “When I met with each and every one of these women, and they broke down repeatedly, you get the impression, the understanding of what these women went through.”
At the time of the previous lawsuit, Maples said the rape claims were investigated internally and no rape charges have been filed, according to WHAS.
After the Oct. 23 incident, jail officials punished the women by leaving the lights on for 72 straight hours, denying them normal privileges and confiscating pillows, blankets and hygiene items, according to the lawsuit.
“The violation of the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights was the result not only of a single bad actor, Lowe, but also due to a systemic failure on behalf of the Clark County Sheriff who failed to properly staff the jail, train the jail officers, and supervise the jail officers to make sure they maintained adequate security at the jail,” the July lawsuit states.
The women in both lawsuits are seeking compensatory damages and jury trials.