One fall night in 2017, an inmate at the Shakopee women’s prison was awakened to a guard standing outside her door with a flashlight. She recognized him as Jeffrey Clair Anderson, a 50-year-old corrections officer from Lakeville. She went to him quietly, without waking her sleeping roommate. He allegedly told her to lift up her shirt.
Anderson had been chatting her up since summer, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday. He’d flirt with her, visit her quarters, or just hang around her so much that his fellow officers began to remark on it. He’d come to her room about five times before this occasion and pantomime taking off a shirt, or ask her to show him her breasts.
According to the complaint, the inmate obeyed, and Anderson reached into the room and felt her breast for about five seconds. That’s the way things are in prison, she later explained to investigators. You don’t “say no” to guards.
It wouldn’t be her last encounter with Anderson. One evening in late November, he was escorting her to her room. When the two of them were alone in the courtyard, he stopped for a moment and put his hand on her crotch. He kept it there for two or three seconds, she says.
After she was released, one of her former roommates gave Anderson her contact info, and he went to Florida to visit her. She says the two of them began a sexual relationship. There are intimate texts between them from as early as winter of that year, including a photo of Anderson’s penis, which he sent with the caption, “How about waking up my little buddy for me?” on December 6.
In an email exchange that same day, the former inmate wrote to Anderson that she’d wanted to be with him for a long time, and it was “FINALLY happening.”
“I feel the same!” Anderson wrote back. He thought she was “hot.”
The Minnesota Department of Corrections has strict rules about interacting with inmates, both during and after their sentences. Officers aren’t supposed to talk to offenders after they get out without getting authorization first. If they happen to stumble across one by accident – even if they’re just buying milk at the same store -- they’re supposed to report the interaction immediately.
Anderson has never documented or reported any contact with this woman.
But she has.
Last year, after she returned to prison, an inmate next door reportedly heard Anderson talking to the woman about their liaison. The neighbor said he told her that the office of special investigations was poking around, and would be talking to her soon. He said she should “Deny it, deny it, deny it,” according to the complaint.
To make matters worse, other officers started treating Anderson's presumed mistress differently. They’d write her up for worthless little offenses, like “loitering” in the hall. They’d flick rubber bands at her like grade school kids. They even put tape over her mouth in her photo ID as if to silence her in effigy, she said. She thought they were trying to get back at her for telling on Anderson.
When Shakopee Detective Cory Schneck gave Anderson a call in January, he denied ever having talked to her after her release, let alone having had a relationship. Nonetheless, he was charged with a felony sex crime. Under Minnesota law, it’s impossible for an inmate to legally give consent, since it's hard to say no to a guard.
On Sunday, the other shoe dropped. According to the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Department of Corrections fired Anderson, along with three co-workers who allegedly knew what was going on. The department said they wouldn’t be receiving severance packages.
The officers can initiate a union appeal, and Anderson isn’t supposed to appear in court until May 20. If he's convicted, he faces a $20,000 fine and he'll go to prison himself -- possibly for 10 years.