A former D.C. jail inmate told a jury yesterday that she once got an $825 tip from a corrections officer after performing a striptease. Now she is seeking millions of dollars in civil damages, saying she was forced to strip and subjected to other abuses during her incarceration four years ago.
Jacqueline Newby said she felt "humiliated, embarrassed and stupid" after shedding her clothes in a dance for corrections officers in July 1995. She said she performed on three nights that month, including one evening in which she and other inmates covered themselves with baby oil.
"It was getting real crazy," said Newby, adding that officers were rooting for the strippers as they danced atop a table. "It was pretty much out of control."
Newby, 28, fought tears as she told her story in U.S. District Court. Her lawsuit accuses the District of violating her constitutional rights, inflicting emotional distress and failing to properly supervise activities at the jail, even though the Department of Corrections had been found liable in other highly publicized cases for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
Another inmate, Sunday Daskalea, who joined Newby in one striptease, won a $5.3 million verdict in a civil suit last year. The District has appealed. Two other inmates have lawsuits pending -- one who says she was in the strip shows and one who says she was beaten for refusing.
The trial in Judge Stanley Sporkin's courtroom revisits a troubling period for the Corrections Department, now under new leadership appointed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). Numerous former officials have been subpoenaed to testify about the activities, including Yvonne C. Walker, who lost her job as supervisor of Newby's cellblock amid allegations that she ordered the shows.
In opening remarks to jurors last week, attorneys for the District acknowledged problems with "rogue officers" but insisted that the city acted aggressively after inmates lodged complaints. Walker and another officer were dismissed, and disciplinary action was taken against 10 others.
Newby's attorneys, William Charles Claiborne and Louis Kleiman, contended that she was ill-equipped to deal with the freewheeling atmosphere of Southeast One, the cellblock where she was doing time for shoplifting and other crimes. Newby, they said, is mildly retarded and has a long history of emotional problems stemming from a childhood in which she was sexually abused, injured in a car accident and stabbed in a fight with her mother.
But Newby's credibility also could become an issue as the trial continues. She testified yesterday that she began using drugs when she was 13, sometimes with her mother, and continued to use them until a few months ago. She has been in and out of the D.C. jail for years, mostly for minor offenses. And she told jurors yesterday that she enjoyed working for years as an exotic dancer at a host of D.C. nightspots, sometimes having sex with patrons for money.
According to Newby, the strip shows at the jail were another story. She testified that she felt intimidated in an atmosphere in which she said guards drank alcohol and engaged in sex with inmates. She said she had a relationship with a female guard, a woman she described in her diary as "my new wife." The lawsuit cites that relationship as yet another example of jailhouse abuse.