CAMDEN - Two former inmates contend they were sexually coerced by corrections officers at Cumberland County Jail.
The women — Katonya Patterson of Millville and Nichole Bundy of Phillipsburg — claim in separate lawsuits that officers demanded sex in exchange for "desirable" jobs at the jail, "as well as other forms of favorable treatment" between 1997 and 2014.
"These acts ranged from sexually graphic verbal communications, abusive touching, oral sex and sexual intercourse," each suit alleges.
Defendants include Cumberland County, its sheriff's department and at least seven officers employed at the jail between 1997 and 2014.
Cumberland County Solicitor John Carr said the county has not yet been served with the suits.
However, he noted, "The County of Cumberland continues to take its obligation to train and manage its staff as well as investigate and address complaints of violations of rights most seriously."
The civil rights lawsuits contend each woman "lived in fear of what would happen to her if she refused the defendant officers’ sexual demands."
According to the suits, the women were jailed "on many occasions" due to crimes motivated by substance abuse.
Patterson, 51, was held at the Bridgeton jail at different times between 1997 and 2014, while Bundy, 48, was an inmate during periods between 1999 and 2008.
Their frequent jail stays made the women vulnerable to officers' coercion even during periods of probation or freedom, the suits allege.
Each of the women understood "it was highly likely she would again be incarcerated in the near future and would be subject to the authority of the defendant officers," the suit asserts.
Andrew D'Arcy, an Egg Harbor Township attorney, filed the suits in Camden federal court on Tuesday, hours before the expiration of a two-year extension of the statute of limitations for sex-assault claims.
The suits contend the inmates' treatment at the jail violated civil rights that included the protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
They also claim the women were the victims of gender discrimination, among other claims.
The suits argue Cumberland County is liable because it allegedly failed to train officers properly and to investigate those accused of sexual misconduct.
The county's also accused of failing to fix broken cameras in areas where officers allegedly "relied on force and intimidation" to obtain sexual favors and of failing to enforce a policy "that no male corrections officer should be left alone with any female inmate."
Each suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from all of the defendants, as well as reimbursement for the former inmates' legal expenses.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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This article originally appeared on Vineland Daily Journal: Former inmates say jail officers demanded sex for favors