An anonymous woman has accused former Oregon corrections officer Brian Balzer of sexually abusing her while in the prison’s mental health unit. The shocking thing about the story is that the accuser was put in jail while Balzer is out on bond.
The Oregonian reports that the woman was considered a flight risk by the courts because she has a criminal history and has been convicted of drug crimes. They call it a “material witness hold” and there’s no limit on how long someone can be held in jail as a material witness.
Washington County Deputy District Attorney Dan Hesson was the one who made the request, claiming in the past it has been difficult to find her and that she has violated her parole on numerous occasions. She confessed she wanted to participate in the trial and Hesson admitted he didn’t want to put her in jail but felt he had no other option.
Balzer has already resigned from his job as a guard at Coffee Creek and is charged with sexual misconduct and supplying contraband because he allegedly gave inmates perfume samples. Both state and federal law says that sex between inmates and corrections staff is never consensual. However, it allegedly didn’t stop Balzer from having sexual contact inside the prison. The interactions included kissing, oral sex and masturbation, and the communication between the two continued through Facebook and email once she was released.
The accuser testified during a grand jury investigation when Balzer was indicted in November. This week she testified at a hearing that the sexual relationship was coerced, alleging she felt “obligated” and “manipulated” by him.
The investigation began when the woman was released into a halfway house and said she “wanted to spend the night” with her former guard. She gave a letter from him to investigators where he complained about not being able to see her whenever he wanted to. He went by the pseudonym”Kalvin K Kane” in the letter but his fingerprints were later found on the envelope.
“I want to see him be held accountable for what he did to me and some other people. That’s what I want,” she testified.
This isn’t the first time Coffee Creek has been accused of sexual misconduct. The jail holds about 1,260 women and been accused by at least 17 women of sexual abuse from at least 8 guards. The Oregon Department of Corrections reportedly paid $415,000 in 2008 to settle the lawsuit.
Despite this case, a federal audit of the prison in 2015 ruled that Coffee Creek met provisions of the federal law that ensure guards aren’t having sexual contact with inmates.
Guards have a “significant amount of freedom to determine how difficult they make life for a particular inmate,” said Julia Yoshimoto, project director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center’s Women in Prison Project.
While Balzer has worked as a corrections officer since 1999, he was shuffled around to various prisons until finally ending up at Coffee Creek in 2011. He resigned just two years later while his case was pending. Corrections spokeswoman Betty Bernt refused to tell The Oregonian whether he was asked to resign or not.