Female inmates describe repeated sexual abuse at Jasper jail in new federal lawsuits

Female inmates describe repeated sexual abuse at Jasper jail in new federal lawsuits

By Stephen Quinn, ABC

New civil lawsuits filed in federal court on behalf of three former female inmates describe a repeated pattern of sexual abuse inside the Jasper Police Department’s jail. The women are now seeking unspecified monetary damages from the department and the company which insures it.

The lawsuits filed this month on behalf of three alleged victims describe a pattern of verbal and sexual harassment including unnecessary tazings and rape at the hands of former Jasper Police Department jailer Russell Boyd. Boyd was arrested in April 2018 after a state investigation into sexual abuse allegations at the jail.

The suits follow a similar complaint filed by a separate woman in April 2019 which alleges repeated sexual assaults by a different jailer, Dennis Busby.

One of three women named as plaintiff in the suits spoke exclusively to ABC 33/40 News on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals for speaking out against law enforcement in Walker County. We referred to her in this story as Jane Doe.

“I remember making phone calls begging my family that I didn’t want to get out of jail to go home; to just get me moved out of that facility because I didn’t trust what was going on,” the woman recalled after she was arrested in the summer of 2017 for leaving a court-ordered drug rehab program.

Doe eventually became a jail trustee – a privilege which allowed her to work outside of her cell during the day. The role also put her in close, frequent contact with Boyd.

“Things started happening immediately after I got that status.”

Doe said she was verbally harassed right away. Within a week she said was tazed in the buttocks by Boyd after he ordered her to take out the trash.

“It just felt like a thousand needles poking in your skin at one time,” said Doe, who claims she was also forced to watch an extremely graphic pornographic video in another incident.

“I think that was really the point that I knew that things were going to get out of hand.”

Doe said the abuse culminated in her being raped by Boyd in an area not view-able by one of the jail’s 60 cameras. Jasper Police Department said male inmates were at times left to supervise the women when female jailers were not available. Boyd was eventually fired from the department after he was criminally charged. Chief J.C. Poe, who declined to discuss Boyd’s dismissal, denied any knowledge of the alleged sexual abuse inside his jail.

“The only thing I know for a fact or I strongly believe is Ms. Deb Johnson, if she knew anything, she would not have tolerated it. I know I would not have,” said Poe referring to jail supervisor Deborah Johnson who is also named in the suits.

Doe believes other jailers knew of Boyd’s actions.

“How do you not see a man walk off with different female inmates and take them to places where there are no cameras and stay for 15-20 minutes? How is that okay?”

Jasper attorney Michele Pate is one of a team of lawyers representing the alleged victims. She argues if Poe didn’t know, it was his responsibility to know and as a result, the department is liable for damages.

“There is a certain attitude that I have found from some people in Walker County that I think is what allows this type of behavior to continue unchecked because people don’t seem to want to get involved.”

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