JDI IN THE NEWS - 2008

Amie Jo Schaenzer, Oshkosh man faces charges of sexually assaulting women inmates at TCI: Officer, 36, accused of ‘grooming’ inmates for sex at prison; woman alleges she was raped, The Oshkosh Northwestern, May 1, 2008.

A 36-year-old correctional officer “groomed” several inmates at a women’s prison in an effort to receive sexual favors, says Fond du Lac County District Attorney Michael O’Rourke.

Jimmie L. Brown of Oshkosh was charged Wednesday in Fond du Lac County Circuit Court with 13 counts of second-degree sexual assault by correctional staff for allegations that he sexually assaulted five inmates. Judge Dale English ordered a $50,000 cash bail for Brown, who remained in custody at the jail following the appearance.

Brown could potentially face life in prison if convicted as charged.

More charges could be filed, O’Rourke said, as police continue to interview potential victims.

Brown is accused of sexually assaulting five inmates over the past year while employed by Taycheedah Correctional Institution, according to the criminal complaint.

One of the women alleges Brown raped her while the others say the sexual acts were consensual.

Brown allegedly used manipulative means to initiate and keep the sexual contact going, O’Rourke said.

According to the criminal complaint, Brown befriended the women, got to know them and then initiated sexual contact with them.

Brown threatened to place some of the women in segregation if they did not fulfill his wishes or to prevent them from reporting the acts, the complaint said.

“This man groomed these women,” O’Rourke said following Brown’s initial court appearance.

The contact occurred in various areas at TCI, including a blanket room and a laundry room, between summer 2007 and April 2008, the complaint said.

He took one of the inmates to a storage room, where she says he raped her. Following the incident, the complaint said, he laughed at her after she told him of her plans to report him if he ever touched her again. He told her she couldn’t do anything to him.

Another inmate said their relationship started off as friendly but changed as he started watching her change clothes and then gave her “assignments” that were sexual in nature, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, Brown had the woman perform sexual acts on him through the trap door tray of her prison cell about 15 times over several months.

During the sexual encounters, the complaint says he insulted her, telling the inmate she should be better sexually because “she had nine children.”

The complaint says he also threatened to harm her family.

Another inmate said Brown started off doing favors for her, including allowing her more time outside of her cell. On one occasion, he had her take out the garbage and then had sexual relations with her near the Dumpsters outside the prison, according to the complaint.

He began treating her differently after she refused to have sex with him, the complaint says, telling her that if she told anyone about the previous incidents, they wouldn’t believe her.

Brown then gave her red, lacey underwear and ordered her to wear them under her nightgown. He had her “flash” the underwear to him every day for a month when he walked by her cell, according to the complaint.

He did a “pat-search” on another inmate, touching her inappropriately, the complaint said. That woman said she began to like him, liked the attention he gave her and eventually began having a sexual relationship with Brown.

Brown was employed with TCI for about a year, O’Rourke said.

Brown has been on administrative leave since April 17, pending an internal investigation by TCI, said Warden Cathy Jess.

This is the fourth incident of a TCI employee allegedly sexually assaulting an inmate or inmates in the past five years and the second incident in the past year, O’Rourke said.

Statistics show that 13 percent of women inmates are sexually assaulted while incarcerated, O’Rourke said.

Last June, allegations were brought against 20-year-old Dustin Schultz, a TCI prison guard from Brandon.

He was convicted in August of having sex with an inmate in the prison’s blanket room.

He was ordered to spend three years on probation.

Jess, who became warden in January, said the incidents are “extremely frustrating.”

She said the incidents were a bad reflection on the staff because the majority perform their duties professionally, follow the laws and “do the right thing.”

Officers are trained on what’s considered “staff sexual misconduct” and are required to go to yearly professionalism and ethical training.

They also sign work rules and a fraternization policy. Fraternization involves having any personal relationship with an inmate, including giving or receiving letters, Jess said.

Following the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, better training was put in place for correctional officers in Wisconsin, but more still needs to be done to ensure these types of incidents do not occur, O’Rourke said.

The PREA was the first federal law passed dealing with the assault of prisoners.

The act requires that national statistics be gathered on prisoner rape, pushes for the development of standards that would serve as guidelines for states and localities about how to address prisoner rape and sets up grants to combat the problem, according to the Stop Prisoner Rape organization Web site.

Jess said the women’s prison population in Wisconsin has increased significantly over the past decade. TCI also continues to grow, with 780 inmates behind its walls, Jess said.

“We have grown tremendously in the past 10 years. We made some improvements in staffing, and we will continually look to see if we need to make more,” she said. “We have already started taking a thorough look at preventative steps that could be taken in the future.”

This includes looking at supervision, upgrading surveillance cameras and bringing in experts to look at security within the prison.

As for more positions being created within the prison, that is something the Legislature would have to take up, Jess said.