New allegations at troubled women's prison

There are new allegations at the troubled women’s prison in Ocala, Florida.

Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) officials say an employee was arrested after he was caught on camera groping an inmate.  Investigators say 37-year-old Samuel Williams, a food service coordinator at Lowell Correctional Institution, waited until he was alone with the woman to grab her inappropriately.  He has been charged with battery.

FDC Dir. Of Communications Michelle Glady released the following statement:

“The Florida Department of Corrections has zero tolerance for staff who act inappropriately and contrary to our core values. The actions of this staff member are absolutely no representation of the professionalism and respect displayed daily by the thousands of Department staff across Florida.”

It's the latest in a string of disturbing incidents coming to light at the prison in Ocala.  Attorneys have filed a lawsuit on behalf of inmate Cheryl Weimar, claiming she was nearly beaten to death by officers in Lowell in August.  The 51-year-old who was supposed to get out in 2021 is now a quadriplegic.

“It’s hell for lack of a better term,” said Leighann Marlow, a former inmate at Lowell.

She served more than four years there.

“There’s definitely a lot of sexual abuse. A lot of that comes into terms of the officers using the girls’ drug problems as leverage to have sex with them in exchange for drugs,” Marlow said.

Last year, the Department of Justice began a federal investigation into reports of sexual misconduct by guards. 

“On top of that, there’s also a lot of physical abuse and threats there of,” Marlow said.

Florida DOC said no one could do an interview Thursday about the incidents at Lowell. The use of force investigation in Cheryl Weimar’s case is still underway.