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After New York prison break: How can employee-inmate relationships be avoided? (+video)
Sadly, power imbalance which favors guards can bring out the worst in them, and leave prisoners afraid to report abuse.
Indeed, many of the reports from 39 states on prison staff sexual abuse compiled by the nonprofit magazine Prison Legal News
highlight problems of extortion and abuse of power that accompany such relationships, with some guards allegedly making threats to prisoners to restrict their recreation time or write them up for disciplinary action if they didn’t comply.
PLN’s August 2006 cover story, Guards Rape of Prisoners Rampant, No Solution in Sight, profiled examples of sexual abuse by prison guards and other employees in 26 states. Since that time the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission has issued proposed standards to reduce sexual abuse behind bars, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics has released reports on sexual victimization in our nation’s prisons and jails. The latter reports found that over 60% of allegations of sexual abuse involved staff members rather than other prisoners.
What has not changed in the past several years is the continued rape and sexual exploitation of prisoners by prison and jail employees who are supposed to ensure their safety. All 50 states have enacted laws criminalizing sex between prisoners and prison staff; thus, employees who engage in sexual misconduct can no longer claim consent as a defense.
Due to the nature of prisons as “total institutions,” it is impossible for prisoners to voluntarily consent to sexual advances by staff members who exert complete control over their lives – and in some cases over their release from prison.
Past issues of PLN have pushed this significant problem to the forefront. We would like to report that exposure of this issue has eased the problem. It hasn’t. We would like to say our continued coverage on this subject has deterred sexual abuse by prison staff. It didn’t.
A Justice Department report from 2009 found that prison officials are more likely to neglect their duties and subvert security policies to conceal illegal relationships.
Staff sexual abuse of prisoners has severe consequences for victims, undermines the safety and security of prisons, and in some cases leads to other crimes. Prisoners who are victims of staff sexual abuse may suffer physical pain, fear, humiliation, degradation, and desperation, and this harm can last beyond the victims’ incarceration. Moreover, because female prisoners in particular often have histories of being sexually abused, they are even more traumatized by further abuse inflicted by correctional staff while in custody.
In addition to traumatizing prisoners, federal personnel may also neglect their professional duties and subvert their prison’s security procedures in order to engage in and conceal their prohibited sexual relationships with prisoners.
Federal personnel who are sexually involved with prisoners can be subject to extortion demands and may be more easily pressured to violate other prison rules and federal laws. Compromised personnel who have been found to have sexually abused prisoners also have been found to have provided contraband to prisoners, accepted bribes, lied to federal investigators, and committed other serious crimes as a result of their sexual involvement with federal (inmates)