An inmate at the Shakopee women's prison has accused a male corrections officer of hounding her for sexual favors, once shining a flashlight in her room and demanding that she show her breasts so he could fondle them.

"You don't say no to guards," she later told police.

Jeffrey C. Anderson, 50, of Lakeville, is charged with a felony sex crime in connection with the alleged assault. Months of repeated groping eventually led to an unlawful sexual liaison between him and the woman, according to court records.

Under Minnesota law, inmates cannot legally give consent, largely due to the uneven power dynamic between officers and offenders.

Three other officers were placed on paid leave this month for failing to report their knowledge of the sexual encounters and, in some cases, for retaliatory actions against complainants, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. All are subject to termination but, as union members, are entitled to a lengthy appeals process.

'No excuse, period'

Anderson is also under internal investigation by the Department of Corrections (DOC) and is on paid leave.

"If [the allegations] prove true, it's highly disappointing," said Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell. "There is no excuse, period, for engaging in any type of relationship with people that we supervise or with people in our custody. It's criminal."

Anderson has two pending complaints against him, officials said. He has served as a corrections officer at Shakopee, the only state-run facility for women, since 2012.

Efforts to reach Anderson for comment were unsuccessful.

According to the criminal complaint:

A special investigator notified Shakopee police Jan. 9 of a reported sexual assault at the prison involving a male officer, who then pursued sexual relations with the victim after her release.

The female accuser alleged that beginning in June or July of 2017, Anderson attempted to flirt with her during frequent visits to her living unit. On a half-dozen occasions, Anderson crept outside her room during night rounds and motioned that she should expose her breasts.

A few months later, she awoke to Anderson shining his flashlight in her cell. She met him at the door, where he instructed her to lift her shirt. Then he reached inside and felt her breasts, charges say.

On another occasion, Anderson walked the prisoner to her room alone, she recounted, stopping in the courtyard to put his hand on her genitals.

A former roommate provided Anderson with the woman's contact information so he could message her while she was out on supervised release. Within days, he began sending her graphic text messages, court records show. He later visited her in Florida and engaged in a "sexual relationship."

Upon her return to prison in November 2018, the woman reported being harassed by Anderson's colleagues, who wrote her up for "minute offenses" like loitering in the hallway. She alleged that on at least one occasion, officers flicked rubber bands at her and slapped white tape over her mouth on the department-issued photo ID.

'Deny it, deny it ... '

Fellow inmates who lived in cells adjacent to the victim told authorities that they overheard Anderson visit her to discuss their intimate encounters. One reported hearing him inform her that she would be interviewed by a special investigator, then instruct her to "Deny it, deny it, deny it."

Strict policies governing employee conduct require staff members to disclose any personal contact with offenders during and after their release from prison.

Even inadvertent interactions — like a chance encounter with a former inmate at the supermarket — must be reported. All communications should be "respectful, professional and dignified." Unauthorized communication after their release is strictly prohibited.

Anderson never documented any personal contact with the victim.

Minnesota prisons are regularly audited to ensure that they abide by standards set under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a federal law designed to reduce sexual misconduct and harassment in prisons and jails. New officers are trained on these policies upon hiring.

"This is not something where people are unaware or uninformed," Schnell said. "It's not a mistake when somebody engages in an inappropriate relationship with a person that's in our custody."

"If we get a whiff that something like this is happening, we are going to address it … and make sure people are held to account," he said.

DOC officials are exploring the idea of implementing officer body cameras as an additional tool to protect staff and inmates from misconduct.

Anderson was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct via summons on April 3 and is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on May 20.

"We do recognize that incidents like this have an impact on community trust," Schnell said. "We're committed to doing everything we can to ensure there are high levels of trust in the DOC as an organization, as well as the staff doing the work."

Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648