Bernalillo County says it’s tightening procedures inside the juvenile detention center in response to allegations that a teenager incarcerated there became pregnant by a guard.
The young woman, now 19, is suing the county, the detention center director and Edward Edmon, who worked there as a youth program officer.
Edmon allegedly told the girl he would never get caught having sex because he knew all the “blind spots” not covered by cameras, according to a criminal complaint charging him with criminal sexual penetration. The complaint was dismissed, though that isn’t uncommon when prosecutors consider bringing an indictment in District Court.
The pregnancy allegation follows another incident from last year, when, authorities say, a surveillance camera captured a female guard having sex with a 17-year-old male inmate in a jail closet. The guard in that case resigned as the county moved toward termination, a spokesman said.
County Commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins said the county is purchasing a $1.7 million surveillance system to reduce blind spots at the adult jail and will consider something similar for the youth detention center.
“Anytime there are allegations of this nature – and they are still allegations at this point in time – we ask our top staff to immediately review our policies and procedures to see if there’s anything more we can do to eliminate the possibility of something like this happening,” Hart Stebbins said.
The county has already made some changes, including “stricter procedures for escorting clients in the facility,” said Andy Lenderman, a county spokesman.
However, there are privacy concerns about going too far with the installation of cameras, he said.
“Following the county’s commitment to safety, Bernalillo County has invested in digital cameras that cover the common areas” of the juvenile detention center, Lenderman said. “However, the county must also weigh privacy concerns for bathrooms, showers and other areas.”
The cameras were installed before the pregnancy allegation.
“This is the second time this has happened,” Commissioner Wayne Johnson said. “That does cause me concern. … We have a responsibility as a community to make sure the facility is secure both for inmates and corrections officers.”
Precisely where the alleged incidents happened is one of the questions the county is examining in its internal investigation, Lenderman said.
As for Edmon, the county contacted law enforcement and launched an internal investigation as soon as it knew of the allegations, Lenderman said.
“However, Mr. Edmon did not show up for work three days in a row, which is considered job abandonment and resulted in the (his) termination,” Lenderman said.
The investigation led to his arrest in December,
“County staff quickly took action as soon as learning of these allegations,” County Manager Tom Zdunek said in a written statement. “We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as this criminal case unfolds, and we will respond to the civil lawsuit appropriately.”
The county is “working to establish a culture of zero tolerance for sexual assault in detention facilities,” Zdunek said.
The suit against Edmon and the county said the plaintiff, identified only as Shauna H., was intimidated by him and he “ultimately caused her to physically submit to his advances.”
Edmon had “retaliated against and mistreated” another inmate who had refused to accept his advances, the suit said.
According to the criminal complaint, Shauna said she had sex with Edmon five or six times, beginning in May until she was released in July.
The incident was reported to authorities in December when Shauna was in a “community custody program,” the civil suit said. A program manager saw that she was pregnant and reported it to supervisors.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal