“I will fuck you so hard, and no one will be able to hear you scream,” Jessica’s manager allegedly said. Then everybody laughed.
Jessica* lived in fear of her fellow prison guards at Edmonton Institution in Alberta, Canada, where they harassed, sexually assaulted, and waterboarded her—all while laughing, according to a lawsuit filed last week on behalf of Jessica and three other pseudonymous plaintiffs.
The lawsuit describes several John Does, some of whom “would throw her against the wall and choke her,” grab her “by the hair,” and slam her face into hard surfaces.
The four female guards’ 45-page statement of claim was filed last week in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta against Correctional Service of Canada and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. The women are seeking CAD $43.4 million in punitive, aggravated, and exemplary damages.
The CBC first reported in November 2016 on the allegedly toxic workplace at the Edmonton Institution and on last week’s lawsuit, which was filed March 5. At least six employees were fired in the wake of an independent investigation. The Edmonton Police Service told the news site that no charges had been filed as a result of those findings, but there is an ongoing police investigation.
Doe #1, the document claims, “made a habit of stirring [Jessica] and other female officers’ unattended drinks with his penis and not telling them until after they had drunk from it, then laughing.”
He would allegedly urinate into a pair of rubber gloves, tie them off, and threaten to throw them at Jessica.
“On two occasions, he did,” the complaint claims. “He would keep several hidden in the office for months at a time as a grim reminder of the consequences for disobeying him.”
One evening, Doe #6 “grabbed her and forced her to bend over a desk while she struggled to get away,” the document says. “He put his hand down her pants and pulled up her underwear, took her handcuffs and cuffed her through her own underwear.”
“He told her later that he had spent the previous night planning this attack,” the lawsuit claims.
By January 2016, “Jessica was suicidal” and stopped wearing her body armour in hopes that an inmate would stab her, according to the suit.
Now, “Jessica is in hiding because she still lives in fear of reprisal from her abusers and from CSC management,” the lawsuit claims.
But Jessica wasn’t alone.
All four women are “dedicated, hard-working, high-performing, long-term employees to CSC,” the suit claims. “They were nevertheless harassed and discriminated against.”
Andrea* was allegedly subjected to gender- and race-based discrimination, repeatedly being called a “fucking Serb” because of her Serbian heritage.
John Doe #1 was her “chief tormentor,” according to the document, which claims that he repeatedly tried to force himself on her, handcuffed her to a chair using her own restraints, called her at inappropriate times, and spread rumors about her throughout the office.
Eventually, the lawsuit claims, “she was accustomed to daily abuse.”
Samantha* is now on stress leave after working nearly two decades in this allegedly toxic environment. Her complaints were addressed with “blasé” responses, including “boys will be boys.”
“She has been openly gay and has been married to another woman for the majority of her service,” according to the lawsuit. “Unfortunately this has made her a target of bullying, harassment, discrimination and reprisals from fellow corrections workers.”
Ultimately, after several incidents, she was most affected by a vulgar phone conversation about her, recorded between two correctional officers, which eventually made national news and prompted an independent investigation.
When Sarah* got to the Edmonton Institution, she was warned by “multiple instructors” that the facility “often mistreated female employees, both sexually and by limiting advancement.”
They allegedly called it a “black cloud” and “the worst prison to work at in Canada.”
Before long, she was groped by John Doe #1, “who seemed to be trying to cultivate a relationship with her,” the document claims.
“She was constantly exposed to the toxic masculinity and rampant misogyny of the Corrections culture,” the lawsuit states.
Sarah said she passed up a promotion in order to stay away from Doe #1 because she was “terrified” of him.
“The fear and paranoia were so great, she chose to stay within the perceived safety of her own crew,” the lawsuit claims.
Sarah now “struggles to come to work daily” and suffers from anxiety and depression, believing that “wearing the CSC uniform cost [her] dignity.”
Edmonton lawyer Jeffrey O'Brien, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the four plaintiffs, did not respond to multiple messages left by The Daily Beast on Monday.
Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale reportedly told reporters on Monday that “there is absolutely no room and no tolerance for behaviour of the kind that has been alleged.”
Both Correctional Service Canada and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers provided statements to CBC News condemning harassment in general but refusing to comment on the specific allegations.
*All four of the female plaintiffs were identified under pseudonyms in last week’s lawsuit.