Purgatory Jailer Made Inmates’ Lives ‘Hell’

     ST. GEORGE, Utah (CN) – A “malicious and sadistic” deputy forced sex on female inmates at Purgatory jail and said their lives would be “hell” if they refused his advances, a lawsuit states.
     Three women sued Washington County, its sheriff and a Purgatory jail guard in state court. Due to the sensitive nature of the women’s claims, Courthouse News is redacting the alleged victims’ names and the name of the accused guard.
     According to the complaint, the guard assaulted inmates A, B and C for months in 2013 while on duty.
     The guard told A and B that he could make their lives in custody “hell” if they refused his sexual innuendo and advances, they claim.
     He allegedly added that the inmates’ sentences would be shortened or extended depending on whether they complied with or refused his demands.
     The guard took A into cells that were not video-monitored and forced her to perform oral sex “among other indignities,” the complaint states.
     He separately “stated or implied” that if B and C “engaged in sexual activity that he could watch,” they would not be disciplined for breaking jail rules, the women say in their complaint.
     The guard pressed the women for additional acts including “rubbing his erect penis through his uniform, masturbating while he watched, and performing oral sex on him,” the 17-page complaint states.
     He also asked B and C to write him sexually explicit letters, they claim.
     Victim C, who was released and re-arrested, says she again yielded to the guard’s demands while she suffered from heroin withdrawals.
     Though a judge ordered her released, the guard refused to comply and continued to “sexually exploit and abuse” her, the complaint states.
     Victim B claims the “heinous” abuse against her carried on for four months, slowly at first and then daily, and that the guard abused her several times in a hallway in front of control room windows.
     “[The guard’s] threats and coercion were malicious and sadistic, and served no penological purpose, but merely the satisfaction of his own sexual and emotional gratification,” the lawsuit states.
     The women say the sheriff knew of inmates’ risk “from guards with sexual predatory desires,” but did little to protect them.
     Specifically, they say the sheriff was aware of unsupervised contact between male guards and female inmates in prior years, common in a private area of Purgatory known as “The Horseshoe.”
     The guard also used the semi-circular area, where guards are shielded from other inmates and guards, to assault them, the woman claim.
     Earlier this month, the guard, aged 29, pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with the plaintiffs and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
     Washington County officials and counsel did not respond to comment requests.
     Purgatory Correctional Facility, in southern Utah near St. George at Purgatory Flats, made headlines in 2006 following the arrest of the polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs.
     Jeffs was held at the jail for 12 months.
     The plaintiffs seek $500,000 in punitive damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment, and civil rights violations.
     They are represented by Kevin Robson with Berth Robson, of Salt Lake City.

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