Southern Indiana

Twenty women are suing Clark County, Ind. jail officials. They claim incarcerated men mistreated, threatened and sexually assaulted them while they were in custody — and that corrections officers allowed it to happen. 

The alleged abuse took place last October. David Lowe, a former corrections officer, is accused of giving incarcerated men access to keys to different parts of the jail, including the women’s pod, and turned a blind eye in exchange for $1,000. 

Lowe is set to go to trial in late September for two low-level felonies and a high-level misdemeanor for running from arrest, official misconduct and trafficking with someone incarcerated. 

Bart Betteau, one of two private attorneys representing the women, said the lawsuit could reveal whether other officers knew of the breach, and motivate county officials to reexamine the jail’s policies. The suit names Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel, Lowe and other unnamed corrections officers.

“There’s cameras all over. Supposedly there’s routine checks done and, of course, the main control area is alerted anytime a door pops. There’s no way that other people couldn’t have known this was going on,” Betteau said. 

The county’s Chief Deputy Sheriff Scottie Maples declined to comment about the pending litigation. But, referencing Lowe’s misconduct, he said the jail hasn’t implemented any new preventative security measures, but added staff who break the law will face consequences.

“I don’t know how you can prevent someone from making a bad decision like that,” Maples said. “If you commit a criminal act while you’re employed with us, we will charge you, we won’t sweep it under the rug, we will make sure that you’re held to the highest extent of the law.” 

Maples said one woman that night alerted jail supervisors of the breach.

“Other jailers had to be complicit. But if not — if everybody was performing their jobs as they should’ve been —  obviously there’s a real problem there with the policy for male inmates to be in the female pod for hours without anybody noticing,” Betteau said. 

In a few weeks, attorneys will seek evidence from the jail, including access logs, video footage from the night of the security breach and testimony from officers who were working at the time. Betteau said the goal is to get a better picture of what took place. 

Yasmine Jumaa is WFPL’s race and equity reporter.