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Women in Prison: Sexual Misconduct by Correctional Staff

NCJ Number
Danny Burton; Eric Erdman; Geoffrey Hamilton; Kay Muse
Date Published
31 pages
The General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a review of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct in women's prisons and specifically looked at applicable laws, policies and procedures for addressing such misconduct and the number, nature, and outcome of allegations made in recent years.
The GAO review focuses on four correctional systems: Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), California Department of Corrections, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and District of Columbia Department of Corrections. The review indicates that 9,200 female inmates were under the BOP at the end of 1998, 11,500 were in California, 10,700 female inmates were in Texas, and 320 were in the District of Columbia. Information was obtained from official sources; female inmates were not interviewed. Findings revealed that the four correctional systems had or were in the process of developing specific policies to prohibit staff sexual misconduct but that such misconduct still occurred. Female inmates made a total of 506 allegations of staff sexual misconduct, of which 92 (18 percent) were sustained. Most sustained allegations resulted in staff resignations or employment terminations. Only the BOP reported any criminal prosecutions with convictions under sexual misconduct laws between 1995 and 1998. All four jurisdictions were involved in at least two civil lawsuits related to staff sexual misconduct during this period. Officials cited lack of evidence as the primary reason why more allegations were not sustained. Most allegations involved verbal harassment, improper visual surveillance, improper touching, and/or consensual sex. Allegations involving rape and other types of forced sexual assault were relatively rare. The GAO indicates that most jurisdictions have laws that criminalize certain types of staff sexual misconduct in prisons and emphasizes the importance of sexual misconduct policies, staff training, and inmate awareness. The report also points out that many female inmates may be reluctant or unwilling to report staff sexual misconduct, many jurisdictions lack systematic data collection and analysis methods, and the overall extent of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct in female prisons is largely unknown. The GAO recommends systems and procedures be implemented to monitor, analyze, and report allegations of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct in prisons. Additional information on the GAO's review and on laws, policies, and procedures related to staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct in the four jurisdictions is appended. 1 table