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Bill would bar sex between guards and inmates

March 11, 1998
By: Ann S. Kim
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Corrections Department employees who have sexual contact with inmates could spend up to five years in jail under a measure heard by a House committee Wednesday.

Under the bill sponsored by Rep. Charles Troupe, D-St. Louis, sex between employees and inmates would be a felony. The bill would also prohibit employees from touching an inmate's genitals or a female inmate's breast for sexual gratification.

Troupe argued that the power dynamic between corrections officers and inmates make truly consensual sex impossible.

"There's no such thing as consensual sex between jailer and jailee," Troupe said. "It's about power being imposed. It can never be consensual -- even if they are adults."

The department of corrections supports Troupe's bill. The department's policy not only forbids sexual contact between prison staff and inmates, but also any type of personal relationship.

"We have a simple position on sexual relations between employees and offenders," said Paul Herman, deputy director of the corrections department. "That position is zero tolerance."

Violation of the department's fraternization policy can result in the employee's dismissal. The policy is taken so seriously, Herman said, that some officers have been fired because they corresponded with inmates.

Herman did have one concern about Troupe's bill. Because guards must sometimes search inmates, unwarranted charges of sexual touching could be brought up.

Although he didn't include such policy changes in his measure, Troupe said in an earlier interview that conjugal visits could alleviate sexual problems in prison. Conjugal visits would help solve the problem of gang rape and "allow women to be women and men to continue to be men" by eliminating "the homosexual insanity that happens in penal institutions." Conjugal visits are currently not allowed in Missouri's prisons.

In January, Sally Keaton, a corrections officer testified before a House appropriations committee that prison guards engaged in sex with inmates. Troupe, who chairs the committee, set up a subcommittee to investigate the allegations. Keaton's allegations also sparked separate investigations by the corrections department and the Cole County prosecutor's office. The three inquiries are still underway.