Guards rarely go to prison on sex charges
By TAMARA LUSH
Published September 24, 2006
Few prison staff who have sex with inmates are charged and fewer still go to prison.
The case of Tallahassee corrections officer K.P. Price is typical.
In July 1998 he and an inmate had sex. About six months later, Price smuggled a pregnancy test inside the women's dormitories. The inmate tested positive and she demanded to have an abortion, according to court documents.
It would take 11 more months for investigators to charge Price. In January 2000, he pleaded guilty to one count of having sex with an inmate - two of the counts were dropped - and he was sentenced to 24 months probation.
According to a 2005 Department of Justice report that looked at sex in prisons across the United States, 81 percent of the prison staff who were found to have sex with inmates lost their jobs - but only 37 percent faced legal sanctions. About 75 percent of the staff members convicted received probation, just like Price.
Until January of this year, having sex in a federal facility with an inmate was only a federal misdemeanor, and those convicted received a maximum of a year in prison, unless the staff member used force.
At the urging of the Department of Justice, Congress made it a felony to have sex with an inmate, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
"We are strongly encouraging federal prosecutors to aggressively use these new tools, and we believe that the legislative changes will make a positive difference in addressing the serious problem of staff sexual abuse of federal inmates," said Cynthia A. Schnedar, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice.