Former inmate speaks out about San Joaquin County Jail guard charged with sexual assaults

Local News

(KTXL) — A corrections officer at the San Joaquin County Jail is behind bars, facing numerous charges of allegedly sexually assaulting multiple inmates. 

One former inmate spoke out and says she was sexually abused. 

“It’s OK to speak and just because we commit crimes, being sexually assaulted or any kind of misconduct physically, mentally is just not OK,” said Courtney Amos. 

Amos claimed the nightmare always began under the cover of darkness when most of her fellow inmates were asleep and no one else was around to witness. 

“He convinced me that I had to do it,” Amos said. “It was illegal strip searches and we’re not supposed to be strip searched by a male officer, especially at odd hours of the night.” 

Back in 2013, Amos faced an illegal use of a firearm charge and that’s when she says Corrections Officer Zachary Simmons repeatedly sexually assaulted her. 

“I felt like I was being punished, like it was supposed to happen because I committed the crime that I committed,” Amos said. 

In maximum security, Amos said she grew more and more depressed, angry and suicidal until she spoke up and told a female corrections officer. 

“I felt like she was willing to listen so I reached out her and she did listen,” Amos recalled. “She tried her best to do what she needed to do.” 

But her case would not go far. Even after she was released, she turned to drugs and crime to cope. 

“Told me that I was lying. They were convinced that I was lying,” Amos said. “Basically, my statement wasn’t … it wasn’t accurate.” 

Sheriff Patrick Withrow was not the sheriff at the time but he told FOX40 in October why the claims against Simmons were stalled. 

“At that time, we were just not able to substantiate any type of accusations being made against him,” Withrow said. 

It wasn’t until another woman came forward that Withrow said something was able to be done. 

“We were able to move in, gather that evidence and immediately remove him from the working situation,” Withrow said. 

The sheriff would not say what evidence they were able to gather during the investigation but he realized that the trust within the community had been shattered. 

“I’m sorry to the community that one of our staff has let down the trust that they swore to do for our community and for our department,” Withrow said. 

As for Amos, she has been sober for at least three years, has two jobs and is going back to school. Her goal is to be an advocate and a counselor. 

“Change is a choice. If you don’t want to change, you’re not going to change,” Amos said. “If you don’t want to speak up, you’re not going to speak up.” 

FOX40 reached out to Simmons but he refused to speak to media. His next court date is set for Dec. 17. 

Amos said she hopes her story will help others gather the courage to speak up if they’ve also been abused. 

The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office says inmates or former inmates can call 209-468-2525 to report possible abuse by corrections officers or to be connected to services that help deal with trauma and recovery.

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