Several female inmates at a southern Indiana jail have filed a federal lawsuit against prison officers there, alleging they allowed a group of men in custody to rape, assault, threaten and harass the women.
Eight women listed as plaintiffs claim Clark County Jail Officer David Lowe gave the men keys to the women’s cells in exchange for $1,000 on the night of October 23, 2021.
“Numerous the male inmates “would have remained in the women’s cells for more than two hours, until the early morning of October 24, according to the complaint filed on Monday.
During those hours, the men covered their faces while verbally and sexually assaulting the women, and threatening to harm them further if they pressed the emergency call button, according to the suit.
At least two women were raped, he said.
“The plaintiffs were injured and suffered grievous bodily harm, some of which
which are permanent, pain and suffering, shock, extreme emotional distress, and humiliation,” according to the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
Lowe was arrested on October 25 for the felony of aiding, instigating, or causing an escape; one count of criminal criminal misconduct; and one misdemeanor count of trafficking with an inmate, according to the complaint.
He was immediately fired, said Larry Wilder, the attorney representing the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s office blames ‘rogue correctional officer’
In a statement to -, Wilder said: “The events of October 23 were the result of the unpredictable criminal actions of a rogue corrections officer. The individual in question chose to abandon his training, ethics and morals and made the unilateral decision to mortgage his career and future by allowing inmates access to the keys to the prison.”
The complaint also alleges that no duty officer during the incident intervened, despite surveillance cameras showing the men accessing the area of the women’s cells.
The complaint says that instead of administering help, the officers punished the women. Officers reportedly revoked women “dark privileges” by leaving the lights on for 72 hours, quarantined them and confiscated their pillows, blankets and personal hygiene items.
In addition, the missing keys were never found and the cell locks were not changed, causing the women to fear for their safety, according to the complaint.
Jail staff learned about the incident from an attorney for one of the female inmates at the Clark County Jail the next morning, Wilder said.
An investigation began immediately, during which security footage was reviewed and interviews were conducted with prison officers, male inmates and more than 40 women incarcerated at the facility, Wilder said.
After Lowe’s arrest, the Sheriff’s Detective Division continued its investigation and found that “these interviews provided information that is in direct opposition to the allegations made in the civil lawsuit,” Wilder said.
He added that “The investigation appears to indicate that there was a systematic plan by individuals who were incarcerated that evening to develop the narrative which forms the crux of the claims in the civil case.”
The lawsuit also blames the sheriff for the incident
Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel is also listed as an accused.
“The violation of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights was the result not only of a single bad actor, Lowe, but also of a systemic failure on the part of the Clark County Sheriff who failed to properly staff the jail, train the prison officers and supervise prison officers to ensure that they maintain adequate security in the prison,” the lawsuit states.
The women seek compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a jury trial.
Wilder said the Clark County Sheriff’s Office takes complaints seriously and continues to investigate, while making physical changes to the facility and revising current procedures.
“This investigation is not complete and the sheriff has committed to [ensuring] that nothing of this magnitude or scope [ever] reproduces,” Wilder said. “However, the Sheriff is also committed to debunking the untruths that have been alleged by those trying to profit financially from the crimes of David Lowe.”